perskovite solar
UNSW's Anita Ho-Baillie holds a perovskite solar cell. Image credit: University of New South Wales

New research by scientists from universities in Australia and the US has demonstrated solar PV cells that capture solar energy from invisible light, replacing silicone and making solar technology both significantly cheaper, and more efficient.

The scientists, from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) and RMIT University in Australia, and the University of Kentucky in the US have discovered a way to “upconvert” the low energy wavelengths of invisible light into high energy light, making it possible to use it to generate electricity from the same amount of exposure to sunlight.

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A second discovery makes the use of perskovite as a viable replacement to silicone in the manufacture of solar photovoltaic cells, as it allows for panels to be made more cheaply, and offer greater stability and efficiency, while also being more lightweight and flexible.

Until recently the material proved difficult to scale-up, but the scientists’ new approach uses multiple layers of the material to prevent the leaching of toxic chemicals, and improve panel integrity as they degrade over their useful life.

Both discoveries were published in studies in the journals Nature Photonics and Nature Energy.

“The energy from the sun is not just visible light. The spectrum is broad, including infrared light which gives us heat and ultraviolet light which can burn our skin,” said UNSW Sydney’s Professor Tim Schmidt. “Most solar cells… are made from silicon, which cannot respond to light less energetic than the near infrared. This means that some parts of the light spectrum are going unused by many of our current devices and technologies.”

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