Solar Energy Technology

Solar technology that results in higher efficiency and low cost is being researched at Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne.  EPFL researcher, Michael Graetzel, used perovskite crystals in solar cells to achieve 20% efficiency, while matching the performance output of similar conventional solar cells. Perovskite technology is currently under industrial development by applying a thin layer of dissolved perovskite crystals liquid to a solar cell. When mild heat by vacuum flash vaporization is applied to the liquid, it leaves behind a thin layer of perovskite crystals of high electronic quality. Layering perovskite on top of a silicon solar cell could help produce hybrid solar panels, with possible efficiency exceeding 30%.  Challenges that arise from the development of this technology are safety concerns regarding the lead content in perovskite solar-cell prototypes, and long-term stability of a commercialized device.

Per the laws of thermodynamics, there are restrictions on energy and it’s use. As a biomass on Earth, our primary source of energy comes from the Sun. We know that the Earth’s deep interior gains about half of its thermal energy from radioactive decay caused by the sun. Earth is, essentially, a closed system on which exhausted fossil fuels cannot be replaced. Unfortunately, the US economy depends largely on the burning of precious fossils fuels, leaving behind adverse effects on the atmosphere’s composition as it becomes a low-energy reservoir. Decreasing dependency on fossil fuels for energy by developing renewable resources would help reduce the carbon footprint of humankind.

Perovskite solar technology is of high importance because it is a step in the right direction. Reducing the burning of fossil fuels through the expansion of efficient renewable resources is crucial as modern technological societies continue to grow. As the global energy demand increases, solar power should become a significant, if not primary, source of supply. The challenge in developing such technology herein lies in a final product that yields low economic and environmental impacts, and high energy payback time.

Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne. (2016, June 9). Perovskite solar cells surpass 20 percent efficiency: Researchers are pushing the limits of perovskite solar cell performance by exploring the best way to grow these crystals. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 4, 2016 from