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A more powerful solar panel

Illustration showing perovskite molecules

Sven Hein/EPFL Illustration showing perovskite moleculesSven Hein/EPFL

Following relatively unsuccessful efforts with photosensitive polymers and electrical conductors, a group of materials that share a molecular structure characteristic of the mineral perovskite has presented itself as the latest option for surpassing and replacing the silicon currently used in solar energy panels. In laboratory experiments, scientists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL) set a record when they used perovskite film to successfully transform 20.2% of solar light into electricity. The results exceed those of commercial silicon panels, which manage to transform from 15% to 17%. According to a study published in the journal Nature Energy on January 18, 2016, the material synthesized from perovskite – called dissymmetric fluorene-dithiophene (FDT) – may be one-fifth as costly as the material now used in silicon panels. The researchers, led by Mohammad Nazeeruddin, also engineered a molecular arrangement of the material which facilitates the movement of positive charges through the new solar cell. Researchers from Italy, Japan, and Qatar collaborated on the study.