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Researchers unveil breakthrough solar energy structure that is significantly cheaper than traditional solar panels: 'The holy grail'

"Perovskite solar cells are kind of the holy grail of this new solar cell technology."

"Perovskite solar cells are kind of the holy grail of this new solar cell technology."

Photo Credit: Rice University

Scientists have created perovskite solar cells that can theoretically last as long as traditional silicon-based solar cells in what might be a major breakthrough for clean energy, LiveScience reported.

Perovskites, which refer to a material with the crystal structure that is naturally found in calcium titanium oxide, has been called a "miracle material," "the holy grail," and "like Michael Jordan on the basketball court" by clean energy researchers due to being potentially cheaper and more efficient to make along with high performance when harvesting solar energy. However, it is far less durable than traditionally used silicon, meaning that most of its (still impressive) applications so far have been in perovskite-silicon tandems.

But now, researchers at Rice University have developed a new method of creating perovskite solar cells that addresses stability and durability issues. By treating the perovskite with a precursor solution of formamidinium iodide, the researchers created "ultra-stable" cells, as LiveScience detailed.

"Perovskite solar cells are kind of the holy grail of this new solar cell technology. And that's because perovskites can be made in theory significantly cheaper than inorganic solar cells like silicon or gallium arsenide," said Isaac Metcalf, graduate student of materials science and nanoengineering at Rice University, per the news platform. 

"The reason why is because they can be solution-processed at low temperatures. Basically, you can take an ink of a perovskite precursor and you can spread it across a piece of glass, and then heat it up, and then you have a perovskite."

The implications of these findings could mean solar cells that are equally or more efficient (meaning they can harvest more solar energy over the same time period, using the same amount of physical space), cheaper and less energy-intensive to make, and involve fewer non-renewable resources (like silicon) — all while theoretically being just as durable.

As our planet continues to overheat due to our reliance on dirty energy sources like gas and oil, it is vital to rely instead on clean, renewable energy sources like wind and solar. Advancements in solar technology that allow us to maximize the efficiency of solar cells continue to make that future more and more viable.

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