Will We Soon Be Able to Spray On Solar PV?

Can you imagine a world in which you could spray on your power source and place it wherever you’d like? Maybe on the windows of your home or on the roof of your car. Perhaps on the sides of your tall business building. Well, solar technology companies are working on a way to literally spray on solar cells to any convenient surface, which will harness power from the sun and eliminate dependence on wasteful energy. To boot, this futuristic option may be more affordable than the solar panels being created in Silicon Valley today.

Harvesting Light in Crystalline Form

Solar energy is a $42 billion industry, and it looks like its about to be turned upside down by perovskites—types of materials that can harvest light when they’re in crystalline form. Innovators are hoping that these perovskites, which could be sprayed on surfaces after being mixed into liquids, will expand solar energy applications and be as efficient as today’s panels that are used to power residences, businesses, cars and more.

Solar Cell Advancement at a Lower Cost

A British company says that it’s striving to have a perovskite solar film available to the public by December 2018. Hiroshi Segawa, a University of Tokyo professor who’s currently leading a five-year perovskite technology development project, says that this application of solar energy is a front-runner in the race for solar cell advancement that comes at a low cost. The Japanese government has grouped universities and businesses together, of which include Fujifilm Corp. and Panasonic Corp., to work on this commercial endeavor.

An Emerging Technology Backed by World Forums and Manufacturers

As much as there is excitement about perovskites changing the solar energy game and reducing reliance on silicon PV cells, some research into the new technology continues to leave questions. Members of the solar innovation community wonder if this really is the answer to our energy needs. The World Economic Forum, however, chose perovskites as one of the top 10 technologies to emerge in 2016. Universities and solar panel manufacturers in the U.S., Asia and Europe right now are racing to bring this technology to the market, and researchers are churning out as much as 1,500 papers each year on the subject.

Momentum is Building for a New Solar PV

We got our first look at perovskites’ utility in 2006, when a graduate student approached Professor Tsutomu Miyasake of Toin University in Yokohama with interest in testing the material’s ability to convert solar energy to electricity. The Japanese academic had not heard of synthesized crystal at the time, but he had been testing other materials for use as a solar power source. Though his idea did not go very far, 2012 offered a breakthrough for perovskites, thanks to growing research and the material’s conversion rate that finally rose above 10 percent.

Perovskites’ efficiency has since improved, reaching 20 percent in the lab. Promising output keeps occurring, and we may soon see a time when we can use this technology on our windows, cars, and walls with ease.

The day we put an end to our heavy dependency on potentially dangerous electricity and unsustainable energy will be a good day for the world, and certainly for the renewable energy industry.

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Vania Silva is a Maryland-based freelance writer who focuses primarily on energy, environment and urban issues, but will follow a good story wherever it leads. Vania is also an electrical safety advocate at  electrocuted.com .

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