“Solar Cells that Cost Little More than a Pane of Glass”

If all works out well, practically any facility that manufactures glass could churn out low cost perovskite solar cells for local markets. Researchers at The Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems in Germany have come up with a business model that could upend the global solar marketplace.

Aside from making solar panels cheaper, the local angle also reduces transportation costs and avoids sticky trade issues like the new US solar tariff.

Perovskites is a class of lab-grown crystals that mimic the structure of natural perovskite, a mineral with good potential for solar applications. Apart from the relatively inexpensive materials involved, perovskite solar cells also lend themselves to inexpensive, high volume manufacturing methods.

One of the downside till now is that perovskites degrade when exposed to air. Yes, air. The good news is that researchers have been developing workarounds to fix the problem.

All this brings us right around to the new perovskite research from Fraunhofer Institutethe researchers have found a way to convert the perovskite to a molten salt at room temperature using a polarized gas, and so were able to fill the pores of the electrode. The final desorption of the gas greatly increases the melting point and brings about the crystallization. The result is a homogenous growth process.

The solar conversion efficiency end of the exercise came out to a respectable 12.6%, which the lab states is a new record for printed solar cells.

The processing steps used for the 12.6% solar cell are similar to those used in the glass industry.” That opens up the potential for introducing perovskite solar manufacturing into local facilities, without the need for the elaborate infrastructure demanded by conventional silicon solar cell manufacturing.

Now, add the use of inexpensive materials (graphite and perovskite), and you arrive at a business model in which your biggest expense is the glass, not the PV material.

The solar industry is here to stay and if the Fraunhofer business model goes mainstream you could see solar cells that cost little more than a pane of glass…eventually!