Oxford research team claims low-cost photovoltaic solution

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

Results published in the journal Science reportedly 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, and prototypes of the new Meso-Superstructured Solar Cells (MSSC) are said to have already achieved 10.9 per cent efficiency.

According to a statement, 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.

Dr Henry Snaith, chief scientific officer of OPV who leads this research, said: ‘The MSSCs have proven to suffer from few losses to provide a photovoltage of 1.1V.

‘The plan is to continuously optimise MSSCs towards the goal of more than 20 per cent efficiency. But even as they are today, they will outperform anything else on the market.’

The technology has been licensed by Isis Innovation, the technology-transfer company of Oxford University, to Oxford Photovoltaics (Oxford PV), which was spun out by Isis in December 2010.

Oxford PV has since gained experience in developing solid-state dye-sensitised solar cells for the building integrated PVs (BIPVs) industry.

According to a 2010 Nanomarkets LC report, revenues for BIPVs are estimated to rise to $6.4bn by 2016.

Kevin Arthur, chief executive officer, 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.’