Colourful PV panels to provide low-cost alternative

Technology developed with scientists at Oxford University has produced a cheap, environmentally friendly method of producing colour solar cells that can be easily incorporated into glazing panels and walls.

The solar cell technology is manufactured from abundant and inexpensive materials that are non-toxic and non-corrosive, meaning that they can be printed onto glass and other surfaces, which is ideal for new builds which feature a lot of glass panel exteriors.

Oxford Photovoltaics, a firm that was formed in partnership with the university, builds on research into artificial photosynthetic electrochemical solar cells and semiconducting plastics in order to create manufacturable solid-state dye sensitized solar cells.

It is though that the technology could allow the widespread use of photovoltaic materials in parts of buildings such as windows and walls rather than previous bulky and unsightly incarnations of solar panels, which could help boost the global push towards the implementation of low price solar panels.

“This technology is a breakthrough in this area. We’re working closely with major companies in the sector to demonstrate that we can achieve their expectations on economic and product lifetime criteria,” said Oxford Photovoltaics CEO Kevin Arthur.

The new cell is a form of thin film solar technology which often be difficult to produce due to the scarcity of materials used. A stumbling block in development has also been the volatile nature of liquid electrolytes.

However the new technology replaces the liquid electrolyte with a solid organic semiconductor that enables entire solar modules to be printed onto surfaces such as glass in red, purple and, most efficiently green semi-transparent surfaces.

“One of the great advantages is that we can process it over large areas very easily. You don’t have to worry about extensive sealing and encapsulation, which is an issue for the electrolyte dye cell,” said Dr Henry Snaith who developed the technology.

It is though that due to readily available and very low-cost materials the manufacturing price will be around 50 percent less than the current lowest cost thin-film solar cells, and will match the unsubsidised cost of electricity generated from fossil fuels.

“One of the great advantages is that we can process it over large areas very easily. You don’t have to worry about extensive sealing and encapsulation, which is an issue for the electrolyte dye cell,’ said Dr Henry Snaith at Oxford University.