With traditional energy sources in decline, the world is increasingly turning to renewable power production.
One of the most popular types of clean, green energy is solar power. In Australia, for instance, thousands of homes are already enjoying the benefits of installing high quality solar equipment from companies such as AVIC International (www.avic-intl.com.au).
But as with any technology, scientists and businesses are constantly looking for the next big development, to improve the efficiency and cost effectiveness of the products on offer.
The race to take solar power to the next level is truly global, so it is no surprise that the academics currently leading the charge come from a variety of locations across the planet.
The British team
First stop on our solar power improvement journey is Oxford University, England. There, a team of scientists have formed a spin-out business with the aim of developing new photovoltaic technology.
Their objective has been to produce cheaper solar cells which are just as, if not more effective than those used in current systems. The researchers’ work has focused on using materials called perovskites, which are cheaper to produce than current cells.
The scientists now believe that the key to successful application of pervoskites is a property referred to as the diffusion length. The diffusion length helps ensure that the correct thickness of film is used to absorb the optimum amount of sunlight.
When their work started four years ago, the perovskite based cells achieved 3% efficiency. The cells are now performing at an impressive 15%+.
Leading Australian companies which supply solar energy systems look forward to introducing these products when they come to commercial market.
Singapore solar advances
An equally progressive academic team at Nanyong Technological University in Singapore, has also committed itself to enhancing solar efficiency using perovskites.
Their work has also involved using organic-inorganic hybrid perovskite materials to develop more cost effective but equally efficient solar cells.
The Nanyong team have estimated that perovskite based systems could be up to five times cheaper than thin film solar cells which are currently available. This is due to efficiencies associated with the simpler solution based manufacturing method associated with the perovskite cells.
The next step in the project is to build prototype solar cell modules using pervoskite.
Berkeley brings forward cheaper solar panels
Californian scientists from Berkeley Laboratory and the University of California have also made strides in developing technology which will bring down the cost of solar panels.
The research team’s work has focused on shifting away from the traditional silicon based cell, to a position whereby any semi-conducting material could be used.
They aim to product a new type of solar cell, called a screen-engineered field-effect photovoltaic (SFPV). This technology utilizes a tiny electric field to deliver the same doping effect as when silicon is used, but with much cheaper materials such as copper oxide.
A wide range of potential semi-conducting materials are currently being considered and assessed for their suitability, with the aim being to identify those with the greatest potential for use in low-cost, high-efficiency solar cells.
Although these developments will make a major difference to the overall cost of solar energy systems, the good news for consumers is that existing products still make great economic sense. AVIC International Renewable Energy Pty Ltd (www.avic-intl.com.au) supplies a cost-effective high quality range of products, suitable for both domestic and commercial use.