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Researchers unveil solar technology using a ‘miracle material’ that could revolutionize the energy sector: ‘It’s very exciting’

“[It’s] sort of like Michael Jordan on the basketball court. Great on its own, but it also makes all the other players better.”

"[It's] sort of like Michael Jordan on the basketball court. Great on its own, but it also makes all the other players better."

Photo Credit: iStock

Scientists across the globe are competing to engineer solar cells that most efficiently capture light to turn into clean, renewable energy. In Saudi Arabia, a team of researchers at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology has announced plans to bring a new type of solar cell to market, and it could be among the most efficient yet. 

The cell combines a mineral called perovskite with silicon to maximize both performance and longevity. It has been aptly named “perovskite/silicon tandem.”

Perovskite has been dubbed a “miracle material” by clean energy experts because of its impressive capacity for absorbing light, combined with the fact that it can be manufactured at room temperature, making it much more sustainable and also cheaper.

One scientist described it as “sort of like Michael Jordan on the basketball court. Great on its own, but it also makes all the other players better.”

By combining perovskite with silicon, the KAUST team said that they had harnessed the best qualities of both materials. The team said that its perovskite/silicon tandem set a record for tandem solar cell efficiency, operating with greater than 33% efficiency.

“The market for perovskite/silicon tandems is expected to exceed $10 billion within a decade. KAUST is at the forefront of this revolution, laying the groundwork for affordable, accessible clean energy for all,” professor Stefaan De Wolf, the leader of the KAUST team, said.

He also said: “It’s very exciting that things are moving rapidly with multiple groups.”

The most immediate challenges for the team include figuring out how to manufacture the perovskite/silicon tandems at commercial scale, which may involve high costs and hazardous materials. They also must ensure that the cells will be able to withstand various weather conditions, as perovskite is extremely fragile. 

The future looks bright, though, as solar cells should continue to become more efficient and affordable with the continued development of technology in the field.

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