Rise of shine

Published in New Scientist, 5 Jul 2014

The solar cell of the future will be flexible, highly efficient and oh-so cheap – just as long as we can make it work in the rain

GOOD things come to those who wait, and Tsutomu Miyasaka had waited a long time. Knowing that a solar cell can be made using just about any pigment – coffee, chlorophyll, red wine – the Japanese physicist had spent years testing all sorts of colourful substances in the hope of finding one as efficient as it was cheap. Then, one day in April 2007, a student walked into his lab at the University of Tokyo, carrying a lump of an unremarkable mineral called perovskite.

It proved to be the start of something entirely remarkable. When Miyasaka reported the results from his first perovskite solar cell in 2009, it converted just 4 per cent of the sunlight’s energy to electricity. By 2012, the figure was over 10 per cent, and others were beginning to take notice. With groups around the world now on the case, efficiencies are touching 20 per cent, beating most solar cells currently on the market. “The field is moving so quickly – everyone is jumping on board,” says physicist Michael Johnston of the University of Oxford. Is this the solar technology everyone has been waiting for? […]

The rest of this article is available here.