Energy

New technique rolls out 40 feet of perovskite solar film per minute

New technique rolls out 40 fee...
A sample of perovskite solar cell, produced using the new method
A sample of perovskite solar cell, produced using the new method
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A sample of perovskite solar cell, produced using the new method
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A sample of perovskite solar cell, produced using the new method

Perovskite solar cells are rapidly catching up to their silicon forebears in terms of efficiency, but one area they continue to lag behind in is production speed. Now, researchers at Stanford University have developed a new method of making perovskite solar cells at up to 40 ft (12 m) per minute, which is even faster than silicon.

Silicon has dominated the solar cell market for decades, but in recent years it’s been at risk of having that crown snatched away. The fastest-rising newcomer is perovskite, which has gone from less than four percent efficiency in 2009 to over 20 percent earlier this year, closing in on silicon’s long-standing record of around 25 percent. It’s also potentially cheaper and more energy-efficient to manufacture.

But of course, perovskite isn’t perfect. It’s far less stable than silicon, so it's fiddly to produce in bulk and the process often introduces flaws that make the cells degrade faster in the elements. Now, the Stanford researchers claim to have developed a new way to manufacture stable pervoskite in useful amounts at practical speeds.

The team calls the new method rapid-spray plasma processing, which is performed using a robot with two nozzles – the first sprays a liquid mixture of perovskite precursors onto a sheet of glass, then the second nozzle blasts the liquid with plasma, which quickly converts it into a thin film of perovskite.

Using this method, the team says that the perovskite film can be produced at a rate of 40 ft per minute. It should be cheap too – the researchers estimate that the modules could be made for about US$0.25 per square foot (0.09 sq m), which is about one tenth the price of silicon.

“We achieved the highest throughput of any solar technology,” says Nick Rolston, co-author of the study. “You can imagine large panels of glass placed on rollers and continuously producing layers of perovskite at speeds never accomplished before.”

The final product also has a respectable efficiency of around 18 percent, and after five months of continuous use, the modules were still operating at 15.5 percent efficiency. While that’s not too bad for perovskite, the team says that the next major hurdle would be to find ways to make sure the cells last for a much more useful length of time.

“If we can build a perovskite module that lasts 30 years, we could bring down the cost of electricity below 2 cents per kilowatt-hour,” says Rolston. “At that price, we could use perovskites for utility-scale energy production. For example, a 100-megawatt solar farm.”

The research was published in the journal Joule, and the team demonstrates the rapid-spray plasma processing method in the video below.

Ultrafast processing of perovskite solar cells

Source: Stanford University

9 comments
9 comments
Username
Congratulations, they found a way to quickly produce a useless product. Hopefully the technique will still be applicable after they figure out how to make useful perovskite cells.
BlueOak
Kudos on the attempts, but it seems amping up the production speed might be a bit premature when the product itself is not durable.
Robert in Vancouver
What about the millions of sq ft of forest that has to be clear cut and destruction of habitat for animals, insects, fish to make a 100 megawatt solar farm ? Nuclear power or natural gas power plants with CO2 capture makes a lot more sense on so many levels.
MooG
Be more positive Robert.
If science can sort out the longevity issues, there is probably no technical reason why all footpaths in the world can't be covered in a variant of this stuff. Forests saved.
Kpar
I'm not looking forward to any 100 Megawatt Solar farms, but this product, if perfected, will mean every rooftop in America can be a power generation station.

Decentralizing the power grid is a good thing- a VERY good thing. Especially when the next "Carrington Event" occurs.
bkwanab
I love how the uneducated immediately announce on here what they see as reasons this technology is unusable. There was a time when paper didn't exist and I'm sure these people said think of all the trees that will have to be cut down to produce it. We have plenty of sheep so why replace parchment.

This technology, just like battery technology will develop quick enough that we could benefit immensely from it. No need to clear cut forests. Do as Germany does now and line the freeways with panels. There is a huge amount of open space that can be used without creating more. If solar panels are cheap enough you don't need them to be optimally aligned. They just need to contribute to the grid.

I'm a bit of a Luddite myself but am very aware how humanity can benefit from less expensive electrical energy that does not create pollution problems now and in the future.

To "Robert" I say, can we store spent nuclear fuel where you live?

To "BlueOak" I say, Henry Ford didn't wait until the Tin Lizzy was as reliable as a Toyota pickup before he cranked up production.

I'm in the process of building an energy efficient home now and would welcome solar panels at the low cost this technology can provide. Where I'm building the construction industry is still putting up structures just like they did in 1956. They don't care because they are able to say "We have cheap and clean hydroelectric power" when what they really mean is "We don't want to build more efficient homes if we have to take the time (and spend the money) to learn a new technology. We like it just the way we are now".

I think I'm a Luddite in some ways but I'm glad the medical technology is creating antibiotics rather than still using leeches and educated people ar4e continuing to invent new technologies that will help reduce pollution, benefit our health and do so at a cost everyone will be able to afford.
michael_dowling
"Decentralizing the power grid is a good thing- a VERY good thing. Especially when the next "Carrington Event" occurs." You are the first commenter I have seen bringing up the danger of a geomagnetic storm plunging us into the stone age in seconds. I have been harping on it for years. The grid,no matter how smart,is too vulnerable to many things such as cyber attacks and physical attack at generating stations,which use high voltage power transformers that are delicate and very hard to replace,as I assume you know.
Karmudjun
I thought California Institutions were all about efficiency and conservation - but here is a breakthrough in disposable PV cells! Yes, this is a production breakthrough, and due to our industrial might waning in the last 25 years or so, we do not lead in PV technology or production. So - expedient production, inefficient, easily degrading and a quickly obsolescent product is just "par for the course". You have to give them kudos for easier production without the esoteric heavy metal contaminants inherent in Silicon PV cells - and PbI2 recycling is getting easier for perovskite. I think this breakthrough is not the answer we want, but it is moving alternate energy manufacture and implementation in the right direction.
Rusty Harris
And how toxic is it, especially in the DISPOSAL of the worn out cells, the impact on mining, with the waste byproducts.