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What Are Perovskites?

Updated: Jun 4

Perovskites, widely seen as the future of solar energy, are a mineral compound that can turn sunlight into electricity more effectively than traditional solar for far more powerful panels. Perovskite solar is also easier, cheaper and more environmentally friendly to manufacture, which promises to accelerate solar adoption globally, helping the world more quickly achieve its critical climate targets and making renewable energy more accessible to all.


What makes perovskite solar so powerful?

  • Perovskites can absorb wavelengths of light that traditional silicon solar panels don't convert as efficiently. In other words, perovskites can harvest more power from the sun's energy.

  • This so-called efficiency rating for perovskite panels has the potential to reach up to a remarkable 40%, whereas silicon solar will top out in the high 20s. Perovskite will revolutionize the solar industry.


What makes perovskite tech cheaper?

  • Perovskite is easier and cheaper to make than silicon tech, whose lengthy, complex, energy-intensive production requires the manufacture of myriad elements, or cells, for every panel. Perovskite manufacturing simply involves coating a nanometer-sized layer on glass. The perovskite layer is 100x thinner than a strand of hair and 200x thinner than a silicon solar cell. More like making a TV screen than a semiconductor chip. And all of this can be done at much lower temperatures, using up to 10x less energy.

  • More power per watt means more bang for the buck. With perovskites, it also leads to lower labor costs for installation, lower land-acquisition costs and a lower total cost of ownership.


What makes perovskites environmentally friendly?

  • Cooler manufacturing temperatures mean less energy use.

  • Lead is used for perovskite solar production, but only a trace amount. A perovskite panel uses 15x less lead than a traditional solar panel. In fact, the amount of lead used in a single auxiliary car battery can produce so many panels that if you stacked them end to end, it would fill up 5 football fields. 

  • Perovskites can be synthetically produced in the lab, which avoids mineral mining and reliance on supply chains outside the U.S.


What does the term “tandem” perovskite solar mean?

  • Tandem refers to the stacking of solar technologies into a single solar panel. In this case, the perovskite layer is placed on top and the silicon solar layer rests on the bottom. These layers are stacked like a club sandwich and work together, in “tandem,” to make a more efficient and powerful combined solar panel with a higher energy output. Initially, perovskite will be used in tandem with silicon solar panels, then in the future, both layers will eventually be perovskite as the technology progresses. Perovskite is “sort of like Michael Jordan on the basketball court. Great on its own, but it also makes all the other players better,” one scientist said. 


Can I get perovskite panels to match the color of my roof?

  • Probably yes, after a while. Variously-colored panels, like standard perovskite panels, aren't on the market yet, but scientists have demonstrated a veritable rainbow of hues. Standard perovskites should be available in all black.  


When will perovskites reach the commercial market?

  • Analysts expect late 2025 to early 2026.


What's the backstory on perovskites?

  • Perovskite refers to a broad class of compounds that share a crystal structure with the naturally occurring mineral called perovskite. The mineral was discovered in Russia’s Ural Mountains by mineralogist Gustav Rose, who named it after Russian mineralogist Lev Perovski (1792-1856).

  • This was followed by various scientific discoveries and accelerating R&D, with a recent avalanche of research quickly advancing the field. In a relatively short time, researchers have improved perovskite’s sunlight-to-energy efficiency 10x, from around 3% in 2009 to over 30% today, with the help of silicon solar technology. 


The Potential of Perovskites

  • The development of perovskite solar technology is progressing much faster than silicon solar tech. The latter took some 50 years to reach its current status, whereas perovskites are on track for commercial viability within a year or two, after only about a decade of industrial development.

  • By 2040, over 90% of solar manufacturing will use perovskites in one form or another, predicts Rethink Energy analysts, reporting that the largest mainstream conventional solar manufacturers are committing to perovskite technology. NASA has even begun to assess perovskite performance at the International Space Station. MIT Technology Review named perovskite as one of its 10 breakthrough technologies for 2024.

  • Perovskites are also being developed for integration into window glass and building facades, due to their flexibility. The technology is also better at capturing light inside buildings, thus could provide renewable power where access to direct sunlight is limited. Perovskite is also being developed for LEDs, x-ray detectors and other non-solar uses.

  • The AI revolution is already requiring a massive increase in electricity power with no end in sight. Perovskite technology has the potential to supply that energy at high volumes and even lower costs, making sure the AI productivity boom is both clean and cost effective. 

  • Perovskites can not only offer a lower-cost alternative to fossil fuels, but an even lower cost alternative to silicon solar panels. Energy and electricity have always been core to human prosperity and there is near unlimited demand and applications for increased global electricity consumption. Perovskites will be critical to satisfying that demand and to sustaining improved living standards for all people.


How common are perovskites on Earth?

  • Perovskites are one of the most common crystal structures that exist on Earth; in fact, the lower mantle (a layer between the Earth’s surface and core) about 660 km below your feet is 93% perovskite! 


More Info on Perovskites

For more, watch this "Perovskite Breakthroughs" video from popular YouTuber Matt Ferrell, who uses his own home to illustrate the technology's potential. Farrell says that replacing the conventional panels he's got now with higher efficiency perovskite-silicon tandem panels would increase his power output by 15%--and he'd not only need fewer panels for this achievement, but each tandem panel would theoretically be cheaper.


Tandem PV

 

Tandem PV is driving the transition to a net-zero economy by working to commercialize perovskite solar panels. The disruptive startup was founded in the Silicon Valley in 2016 with a goal to grow perovskite technology to meet demand, projected to reach $1 trillion annually in the next decade. Its world-class team of solar innovators, motivated to accelerate the shift to affordable renewable energy for all, possesses deep technical, manufacturing and scale-up expertise.

 

What is the efficiency of Tandem PV's perovskite panels?

  • Tandem PV’s design boosts the output of conventional solar modules by stacking them with thin-film perovskite. The company is producing tandem perovskite panels with 26% absolute efficiency, which is roughly 25% relatively more powerful than the average silicon solar panel. 

 

How durable are Tandem PV's panels?

  • A perovskite panel that combines robust durability and high efficiency is required for commercial success.

  • In the lab, Tandem PV has demonstrated the equivalent of decades of durability with commercial-size cells at 80% performance (less than 1%-per year degradation).

  • The company is conducting outdoor testing, key to commercialization, and plans to obtain third-party validation of its panels’ efficiency and durability during 2024.

 

What market segment is Tandem PV targeting?

  • Tandem PV is targeting utilities as the first customers for its perovskite solar panels.

  • Conventional wisdom holds that utilities predominantly site their solar projects far afield in areas where labor and land are cheap. Tandem PV has found that many future utility deployments will be near dense urban areas where labor and land are both scarce and expensive.

  • Solar power is already less expensive than ever, but we need to move even faster toward a net-zero economy. Perovskite is leading the way.

 

"It's possible that Tandem PV will really be one of the first companies to commercialize perovskites....It’s the combination of size, efficiency, and durability which is noteworthy, and compared to what we’ve seen from many other companies, Tandem PV is doing well...."

– Rethink Technology Research, January 2024

 

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