Chula's researchers have garnered themselves a world-class reward for their latest solar cell project which increases the capacity of electricity production and can be applied to numerous types of merchandise. These new solar cells are guaranteed to meet international standards and develop clean energy for society.
What used to wow us in sci-fi movies is now coming true as a reality. The day when we all become electric humans who can produce our electric currents using our clothing with built-in solar cell fibers or our wristwatches, cellular phones, or even your favorite hat.
These are the merits of research like "Developing the Stability of Perovskite Solar Cell" by Dr. Rongrong Cheacharoen of the Institute of Metallurgy and Materials Science, Chulalongkorn University who was one of the three researchers from the ASEAN region to recently win in the Green Talents Competition 2021 in Germany. The research has succeeded in overcoming the limitations of current solar cells and increasing the diversification of various types of products.
Limitations of Current Solar Cells
Current solar cell panels have several limitations such as production problems, large panel sizes, and diminished performance in hot and humid environments.
As Dr. Rongrong explained, "most of the solar cell panels on the roofs of houses or those found in solar farms are the silicon type. Their capacity reduces by about 15% when the panel temperature reaches 60-70 degrees Celsius."
Moreover, the solar cell panels production process is also highly complicated and relies on high temperatures which could pose a serious problem if the world would require more solar energy.
"The research question is how to find solutions to materials, production, and solar cell panels efficiency in a hot and humid country like Thailand."
A New Type of Heat-resistant Solar Cell Panel at Maximum Production Capacity
Other than the silicon panels, another type of solar cell panel that is gaining popularity and merits further study is the Perovskite Solar Cell which has the same capacity to produce electricity as the silicon type but requires fewer materials and works well in a wider range of temperatures than the silicon type or as high as 65 degrees Celsius.
"What is special about the Perovskite Solar Cell, aside from the flexible and thin materials (a mere 500-nanometer thinness) it is also fast and easy to produce since the forming of the Perovskite Solar Cell uses a solution process similar to printing which makes it possible to be used on surfaces of any type whether it is fabric, bent surfaces, or even tiny tools making it possible for this type of solar cell to be used in a vast range of products like wristwatches, fabric fibers, and hats."
Solar Cells with High-Quality World Standards
With all its advantages, the new type of solar cell still has certain limitations such as stability. Damp weather or UV rays can make the materials or solar cell fringes alter their appearance after an extended period of use. Dr.Rongrong has tried to address these problems leading to her endeavors since 2015 to work with leading academic institutions both in Thailand and abroad to study the stability of the Perovskite Solar Cell by putting it to use in an environment with UV rays, humidity, and voltage difference to determine whether the capacity is equivalent to normal circumstances.
This research led to the design of the tools and the selection of materials that have been developed as encapsulation that would enable the Perovskite Solar Cell to pass the IEC 61215 industrial standards (first world standards for solar cell panels).
"In terms of testing standards, we conduct an accelerated test which involves replicating various conditions anticipated to happen in the next 25 years and noticed certain problems. However, the encapsulation and materials for this research enabled us to pass the test."
Dr. Rongrong takes great pride in the fact that winning the Green Talents Competition 2021 from Germany is an affirmation of the standards and efficiency that meet the Sustainability Development Goals. Currently, the Netherlands and many other countries are adopting the new Solar Cell and adapting it to different forms of Solar Cell structures. For Thailand's future in clean energy, Dr. Rongrong believes additional research is needed on the stability of new solar cells that suit our hot and humid climate. She is certain, however, that we will be seeing various forms of solar cell products being manufactured here in Thailand.