The latest great innovation in this sector is sponsored by Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft, and promises to be the future of solar energy. The company CubicPV, based in Massachusetts (United States) and dedicated to the creation of photovoltaic panels, has designed a new solar panel that is made up of a lower layer of silicon (Si) and an upper layer of perovskite, which gives an efficiency of more than 30% compared to conventional solutions from other manufacturers that are being marketed and do not have this technology.
Tech mogul Bill Gates is so convinced of the success of these new panels, which they have dubbed ‘tandem solar cells’, that has backed the project through its investment firm Breakthrough Energy Ventures, as indicated by the media CNBC. In addition to this, last month the US Department of Energy revealed that the company CubicPV will be the main participant in a new research center at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
With silicon and perovskite
The key to these new panels is the combination of silicon, a material from which the vast majority of photovoltaic cells are made, along with perovskite, a relatively rare mineral in the earth’s crust that could transform sustainable energy and the race against climate. climate change to significantly increase the performance of commercial solar panels.
The company’s scientists say that perovskite photovoltaics can outperform silicon in several ways, as they have a higher absorption coefficient, which means they can capture a broader range of photon energy in the light spectrum. solar to deliver more power. In fact, they estimate that the latter tandem cells are capable of offering a performance of around 31.5% compared to 21% of those made with only silicon, and 25.7% of those created only with perovskite.
Another great advantage of this technology is that perovskite cells may be more sustainable to produce than silicon. This is because it takes intense heat and large amounts of energy to remove impurities from the silicon, which results in a lot of carbon emissions. While the former are very thin -less than a micron- and can be painted or sprayed on surfaces, which also makes them cheaper to manufacture.
By using a lower layer of silicon and an upper layer of perovskite, the company has stated that its efficiency will reach 30%. “The tandem draws more energy from the sun, making each solar installation more powerful and accelerates the world’s ability to curb the worst impacts of climate change. We believe that the next decade the entire industry will change in tandem,” Frank van Mierlo, director of the company CubicPV, told the CNBC.
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The executive has also indicated that the great advantage of this technology is the company’s perovskite chemistry and its low-cost manufacturing method for the silicon layer that makes the tandem approach economical. “Perovskite is a disruptive material that does not disrupt the business model: entrenched silicon-based manufacturing capability. Our product will be better for produce energy at a lower cost than any competing solar technology“, Chris Case, CTO of Oxford PV -a company that plans to start manufacturing tandem modules- has indicated to the same medium.
Perovskite is an interesting material for manufacturing photovoltaic cells, but it still faces certain challenges in terms of cost, durability, and environmental impact. One of the better-performing versions of this mineral is lead halide perovskite, but researchers are trying to formulate other compositions to avoid lead toxicity.
Martin Green, a solar cell researcher at the University of New South Wales in Australia, has said that silicon-based tandem cells will be the next big step forward in photovoltaic technology; although he warns that it is not known yet if they would work well enough outside the laboratory. This is because perovskite materials can break down when exposed to moisture.
“The big question is whether perovskite-silicon tandem cells will ever have the stability required to be commercially viable. Although progress has been made in recent years, the only published field data for such tandem cells with competitive efficiency suggest that they would only survive a few months outdoorseven when carefully encapsulated,” Green said.
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The solar panels that have made Bill Gates fall in love: this may be the future of solar energy