Perovskite Solar Cell Fever Reaches Fever Pitch

May 18th, 2019 by  Clean Technica

File this one under W for What’s taking so long? Researchers began pitching perovskite solar cells as the next big thing in clean power like ten years ago, but bringing the tricky little devils to the mass market is another kettle of fish. Well, it looks like the wait is over — that is, if you can hold your breath until 2020.

perovskite solar cellsEU Launches Perovskite Solar Cell Initiative

For those of you new to the topic, perovskite is a crystalline mineral that occurs naturally somewhere out in the Ural mountains.

Lab-grown perovskite variations are relatively inexpensive and easy to synthesize. That, combined with unique optical super powers, has made perovskite solar cells the subject of many research papers and R&D dollars.

In the latest development, last week the EU’s Solliance solar cell research organization birthed a new consortium called EPKI, the European Perovskite Initiative, and tasked it with facilitating “joint-research programs and synergies among universities, institutes and companies” to advance the cause of perovskite solar cells.

They’re not kidding around. Just check out this lineup of heavy hitters:

Solliance Solar Research (NL, BE, DE)TNO (NL), including:

Imec (BE)
Forschungszentrum Jülich (DE)
Eindhoven University of Technology (NL)
University of Hasselt (BE)
Delft University of Technology (NL)
University of Twente (NL)
University of Groningen (NL)

University of Oxford (UK)
Centrum for Hybrid and Organic Solar Energy – CHOSE, University of Rome Tor Vergata (IT)
Helmholtz Zentrum Berlin fuer Materialien und Energie (DE)
École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne – EPFL (CH)
University of Valencia (ES)
Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nuremberg & Helmholtz Institute Erlangen-Nuremberg for Renewable Energies (DE)
Centre Suisse d’Electronique et de Microtechnique – CSEM (CH)
CEA – Institut National de l’Energie Solaire – INES (FR)
Fraunhofer – ISE (DE)
Institut Photovoltaïque d’Île-de-France – IPVF (FR)EDF (FR), including:

Total (FR)
Ecole Polytechnique (FR)
Air Liquide (FR)
Horiba (FR)
Riber (FR)

Austrian Institute of Technology – AIT (AT)
Uppsala Universitet (SE)
KTH Royal Institute of Technology (SE)
Instituto Italiano de Tecnologia – IIT (IT)
Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche – CNR (IT)
University of Perugia (IT)
University of Potsdam (PL)
Oxford-PV (UK, DE)
Saule Technologies (PL)
Smit Thermal Solutions (NL)

Everybody Loves Perovskite

Did you catch Oxford PV in that list? If the name rings a bell, maybe you’ve seen it sprinkled about the pages of CleanTechnica here and there.

Oxford PV is an Oxford University spinoff that first sailed across the CleanTechnica radar in 2013 and there has been a steady drumbeat of news since then.

The company came up with a unique cure for the Achilles’ heel of perovskite solar cells, which is the fact that they fall apart in bad weather. No, really, they do. Or rather, they did. Quite a bit of tweaking has been taking place since the first perovskites popped up in the lab, and improved stability is one result.

Oxford’s approach includes printing perovskite solar cells directly onto conventional silicon solar cells, and the R&D monies have been rolling in.

Last month the company was featured in an article about perovskite solar cells in Sciencemagazine. Also last month, Virun Sivaram called the company’s approach to perovskite solar technology an “an evolution en route to a revolution,” in a long form article in IEEE Spectrum. Virun Sivaram is chief technology officer of India’s ReNew Power, btw.

Northrup Grumman’s “Now” blog took note of the Spectrum article and zeroed in on this tidbit:

Oxford PV told IEEE Spectrum that their cells have been engineered for stabilities and extensively tested, and suggested they will produce the first modules in 2019, working with a “major manufacturer of silicon solar cells and modules.”

Wait, really? 2019? Hey, that’s that’s this year!

Oxford also got a shoutout from MIT Technology Review last week, with more details on that “major manufacturer” hookup:

Oxford PV plans to deliver solar cells based on perovskite and silicon to the market by the end of next year, using a German factory it acquired in 2016 from Bosch Solar. The two materials will come in a package that otherwise looks, ships, and installs the same way as a standard solar panel, in a kind of half step that the company believes will make it easier to introduce the technology to the market.

It sure looks like the company is gearing up for shipping in 2020, especially with the new EPKI platform to support it.

Apparently the former Bosch facility is a pilot-scale PV plant, though. CleanTechnica is reaching out to Oxford to see what the plans are for ramping up production, so stay tuned for more on that.

What About The USA?

Yes, what about the USA?

We’re curious about the prospects for Oxford PV to crack the US market. After all, there is the pesky matter of trade wars, though the fallout from Trump’s 2018 solar tariff was not as bad as some feared. For that matter, state-level policies have a far greater impact on solar industry growth in the US.

The main selling point of perovskite solar cells is price, price, price (as in low), and the 2018 tariff was designed to phase down to nothing within a few years, so actually the prospects look pretty good. CleanTechnica is reaching out to the company for comment, so stay tuned for more on that.

Meanwhile, perovskite solar cells certainly have a fan in the Department of Energy, if not in the Oval Office. The agency’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado has been working on new perovskite variations that are more efficient and reliable than the old ones, so stay tuned for more on that, too.