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Oxford University PV breakthrough offers lowest cost solar energy

Oxford researchers have developed a photovoltaic (PV) technology that has the potential to deliver low cost, efficient solar cells that can be readily incorporated into glass building facades.

Results just released in the journal Science promise to provide the lowest cost-performance photovoltaic solution on the market. The technology makes use of a simple manufacturing process with inexpensive and abundant raw materials. Prototypes of the new Meso-Superstructured Solar Cells (MSSC) demonstrated in the journal have already achieved an impressive 10.9% efficiency.

The technology has been exclusively licensed by Isis Innovation Ltd., the Technology Transfer company of the University of Oxford, to Oxford Photovoltaics Ltd (Oxford PV) which was spun out by Isis in December 2010. Oxford PV has since gained experience in developing solid state dye sensitized solar cells for the Building Integrated PV (BIPV) industry. According to a 2010 Nanomarkets LC report, revenues for BIPVs are estimated to rise to US$6.4 billion by 2016.

CEO Kevin Arthur said: “Our experience with this hybrid technology gives us the perfect vantage point to quickly develop our exciting new MSSCs into commercial products. This new class of solar cells will deliver a massively scaleable product firstly for BIPV market and, as energy conversion performance improves further, for other high volume PV applications. Ultimately we envisage this technology competing directly with grid delivered electricity.” 

The company says the key to this new class of solar cell technology lies in combining specifically formulated ceramics with thin films. An MSSC can be printed directly onto glass and processed at below 150° C to produce a semi-transparent, robust layer.

“The MSSCs have proven to suffer from few losses to provide a photovoltage of 1.1 volts” said Dr Henry Snaith, Chief Scientific Officer of Oxford PV, who is leading the research. “The plan is to continuously optimise MSSCs towards the goal of over 20% efficiency. But even as they are today, they will outperform anything else on the market.” 

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Photovoltaics (PV)  •  Solar electricity