Perovskite: What is it, and What Can it do For Green Energy?
Posted by Stephen Shickadance in Industry News.
There's been a lot of buzz about a new semiconductor on the market for solar energy. Perovskite has been all the rage in a lot of articles about being the new standard material for solar panels, but is it the bee's knees? Let's take a look and answer the latest question on the horizon: what is perovskite, and is it good for solar energy?
What is Perovskite, and is it Good For Solar Energy?
A look into the latest semiconductor for green energy
First off, it's important to distinguish what we talk about when we say "perovskite." The mineral perovskite is what we're concerned with because any material with a structure similar to the mineral can be referred to as a perovskite. When it comes to the mineral, it is a calcium titanium oxide, oxides being compounds containing at least one oxygen atom and one other element in its formula. Originally discovered by Gustav Rose and named after mineralogist Lev Perovski, it forms as a cubic crystalline structure that has a metallic-like luster.
Is it good for solar energy?
Yes. The Clean Energy Institute at the University of Washington cites the first thin-film development of a perovskite solar cell had "efficiencies over 10%" with the latest laboratory cells holding "25.2%" as of the time of the article. Seen as current manufacturing efforts with silicon thin-film produce cells around 18% efficiency, it seems that perovskite is on its way to being the lead semiconductor material for solar cells. But there are some caveats.
The most efficient and stable perovskite cells unfortunately use lead as a high-volume component, so the environmentally-friendly factor goes out the window when a solar cell's lifecycle analysis is considered. Lead, as many know, is hazardous to live organisms, so if manufacturers go into commercial production of perovskite cells, it may spell a very toxic future once the cells die out. Thankfully, efforts to produce perovskite cells without harmful materials are underway.
Perovskite solar cells (PSCs) are cited as being the fastest-growing solar cell technology as of 2016 despite not being widely commercially available or constructed with safer materials. This makes perovskite a very attractive material in the future for solar energy. In addition to how fast a PSC has grown in efficiency and price (dropping) over time, production methods are very simple, required materials to produce a cell are minimal, and the resulting footprint from toxins released from manufacturing a cell is extremely low.
Is it good for businesses?
The million-dollar question (literally, in some cases). One of the greatest benefits of silicon-based cells is that they have an extremely long average lifespan of 25 years, even when they're subject to constant temperature fluctuations, rain, snow, dust, bird droppings, and whatever else might fall onto the panels. SIlicon is a very understood material since we've been using it heavily in transistors for more than 50 years, and so its longevity is no mistake. Perovskite, however, is known to degrade quicker than silicon, so a large question remains if PSCs will be financially viable in the near future. They may be inexpensive upfront, but if you need to replace a panel every 5 years as opposed to silicon, well...that speaks for itself.
As far as solar lighting, it's uncertain when—and more importantly if—PSCs will work well enough for a business purchase. PSCs have to compete against a tried-and-true technology that has worked for decades and has only improved. However, it seems that the current rates of efficiency gain and price drop over time are higher than silicon. There's a long way to go to replace the sand-based material, but it may be the case that you'll see more PSCs within this next decade.
As for now, the most accessible, efficient, and environmentally-friendly solar panels are monocrystalline silicon panels. They're used heavily in solar lighting applications because of their efficiency ratings, allowing for thinner, smaller panels that aren't too heavy to be suspended in air on a proper pole. If you'd like to know more about the technology behind our panels, contact us and we can have a solar lighting expert discuss details.
Image Credit: Attribution: Rob Lavinsky, iRocks.com – CC-BY-SA-3.0
LATEST NEWS & ARTICLES