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A UK-based clean technology leader – Oxford PV – recently set a new world record for conversion efficiency in a perovskite solar technology. These highly efficient solar panels have been touted by many to be the next step in the future of photovoltaics.
Oxford PV: Pioneering Research for the Future of Photovoltaics
Oxford PV was founded in 2010, spinning out from the prestigious University of Oxford in the UK. Ten years later, it has the world’s largest team of researchers exclusively focused on developing and commercializing perovskite solar technology.
Co-founder Professor Henry Snaith’s academic work and laboratory at Oxford provided a strong research base for Oxford PV. Snaith is a leading light in international materials research, and throughout his career, he has been at the forefront of materials research for ever more efficient solar panels.
Snaith's academic achievements include discovering high-efficiency solid-state organometal trihalide perovskite-based thin film and meso-superstructured solar cells, the world’s first demonstration of mesoporous single crystals of anatase TiO2, and the first demonstration of "gyroid" structured titania for dye solar cells.
Snaith announced a breakthrough in solid-state high-efficiency metal halide perovskite solar technology in the journal Science in 2012. From then on, rapid commercialization and mass manufacturing process development took place, and the race to efficient solar panel world records gained pace.
Combining Cutting-Edge Research with Commercial Expertise
Snaith co-founded Oxford PV with Kevin Arthur, a seasoned entrepreneur and clean technology commercialization specialist. Smith built Oxford PV’s value to £29 million from nothing in five years, raised £15 million in equity funding and grants, led the commercialization of perovskite solar technology, and recruited a team to scale up the company before stepping down from the role of Co-Founding CEO.
Frank P. Averdung took the helm as CEO when Arthur stepped down, and is continuing to position Oxford PV strategically to ensure they remain at the commercial – as well as academic – forefront of perovskite solar technology. Responding to the NREL certification, Averdung said:
Alongside the pace of our technology advancements in both efficiency and stability, our pilot line is routinely producing commercial sized tandem solar cells for validation by our development partner – a major manufacturer of silicon solar cells and modules. With new collaborations with key industry players strengthening our manufacturing capabilities, the foundations are in place to move perovskite photovoltaics into commercial phase.”
Oxford PV’s combination of research, manufacturing and commercialization expertise firmly establishes its position as a world leader in perovskite solar technology. In addition to the research and development site in Oxford, Oxford PV is also building the first volume manufacturing line for perovskite-on-silicon tandem solar cells in its industrial site near Berlin, Germany.
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How Efficient is Oxford PV’s Perovskite Solar Technology?
Solar cell efficiency – measured as the percentage of solar energy that is converted into electrical energy through the photovoltaic process in the cell – is the key metric to follow for the future of photovoltaics. With increasing efficiency, solar power will become more and more capable of replacing the harmful burning of fossil fuels to meet the world’s energy needs.
Oxford PV’s cutting-edge research and commercialization expertise has led to a world record in efficient solar panels. Oxford PV perovskite solar technology has been certified by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in California as reaching 28% efficiency – beating its world record for perovskite solar cell efficiency of 27.3%.
Is Perovskite Solar Technology the Future of Photovoltaics?
A relatively new addition to the suite of research materials and methods for photovoltaic energy, perovskite has quickly risen up the leadership tables in terms of solar panel efficiency and – crucially – manufacturing cost.
While some research cells can boast efficiencies of almost 50% (in the case of four-junction or more concentrator cells), these are too expensive or too difficult to mass manufacture to represent a commercial opportunity for solar power.
Perovskite, on the other hand, is both cheaper to obtain and simpler to mass manufacture. It is also significantly better at charge generation, transport and recombination than silicon, which makes up the majority of solar panels on the mass market today.
The newcomer, perovskite solar technology, can easily beat its closest mass-market competitor, silicon, in terms of efficiency. Perovskite can be expected to take the ascendancy when materials and manufacturing costs for perovskite solar technology fall below silicon.
What is Next for Perovskite Solar Technology and Oxford PV?
Oxford PV is by no means resting on its achievements after its latest world record in efficient solar panels. Commenting on the NREL certification, Oxford PV Chief Technology Officer Dr Chris Chase said:
We are continuing to push our perovskite-silicon solar cell technology, with a roadmap that extends beyond 30% efficiency. The solar cells we are developing are not only efficient but also stable. Similar devices from our research and development facility have passed at least 2000 hours of damp heat reliability testing, in line with IEC 61215 protocol.”
Oxford PV is well-placed to bring efficient solar panels using perovskite solar technology to the mass market soon. When it does, industrial and domestic energy consumers will be able to considerably reduce their reliance on the harmful burning of fossil fuels, while at the same time reducing energy costs.
With leaps forward in efficient solar panels such as the solar cell efficiency achieved by Oxford PV, the future of photovoltaics may well be perovskite solar technology. If it is, Oxford PV will be one of the leading technology companies to watch.
References and Further Reading
AZoM (2020). “New Study Reports Highest-Ever Efficiency for Printed Perovskite Solar Cells.” AZO Materials. https://www.azom.com/news.aspx?newsID=54104.
Biswas, Ankita (2020). “Using Perovskite Materials as an Alternative to Silicon Cells.” AZO Materials. https://www.azom.com/article.aspx?ArticleID=19334.
Lee, M. M., J. Teuscher, T. Miyasaka, T. N. Murakami, and H. J. Snaith. 2012. “Efficient Hybrid Solar Cells Based on Meso-Superstructured Organometal Halide Perovskites.” Science. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1228604.
Materials Research Society (2014). “Outstanding Young Innovator Award 2014.” Materials Research Society. https://archive.is/20140903123607/http://www.mrs.org/oyi-2014-snaith/.
NREL (2019). “Best Research-Cell Efficiency Chart.” NREL. https://www.nrel.gov/pv/cell-efficiency.html.
Oxford PV (2018). “Oxford PV perovskite solar cell achieves 28% efficiency.” Oxford PV. https://www.oxfordpv.com/news/oxford-pv-perovskite-solar-cell-achieves-28-efficiency.
Smith, Brett (2016). “How to Improve the Efficiency of Solar Cells.” AZO Cleantech. https://www.azocleantech.com/article.aspx?ArticleID=589.
Tegio, Rose Ann (2018). “Are Perovskite Cells More Efficient?” AZO Cleantech. https://www.azocleantech.com/article.aspx?ArticleID=784.