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‘Wonder material’ unlocks solar power

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Scientists at Oxford University have developed a pioneering system that could revolutionise the solar industry.

They have moved closer to the commercialisation of a game-changing solvent system with reduced toxicity that can be used in the manufacture of perovskite solar cells.

Perovskites – described as a ‘wonder material’ – have been shown to be almost as efficient as silicon in harnessing solar energy, as well as being significantly cheaper to produce.

Dr Nakita Noel of Oxford’s Department of Physics, lead author of the study, said: “At the moment, there are three main solvents used in the manufacture of perovskite solar cells, and they are all toxic, which means you wouldn’t want to come into contact with them.

“Additionally, the most efficient perovskite solar cells are currently made through a process called solvent quenching – a technique that is not easily transferred from lab-scale deposition techniques to large-scale deposition techniques. While vapour deposition of these materials can overcome this problem, it will come at additional costs. One of the main selling points of this material is that it is cheap and can be easily solution-processed.

He continued: “We have now developed the first clean, low-boiling-point, low-viscosity solvent for this purpose.”

Study co-author Dr Bernard Wenger, also of Oxford’s Department of Physics, added: “While we are probably still a few years from seeing perovskite-based solar panels on people’s roofs, this is a big step along the way.”

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