Lead free perovskite cells could speed up delivery of low cost solar power

A new breed of solar cells, developed at the University of Oxford by Professor Henry Snaith and his research team, could bring low cost electricity to the market sooner than predicted following the development of a perovskite cell which uses tin instead of lead.

Oxford Photovolatics (Oxford PV), which is commercialising the technology developed by award-winning physicist Professor Snaith, says that omitting lead from the product will make it even more attractive to the potential licensees and customers.The company has been developing the thin film perovskite technology for the building integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) market as the cells can be made semi-transparent and easily integrated into the architectural glass that is used on large commercial developments throughout the world.The technology will be licensed to glass manufacturers and Oxford PV expects to sign the first deal early next year.

Although the quantity of lead in Pb-based perovskites is miniscule, the research team, recognizing the requirement to eliminate lead in electronics, has been looking for a substitute that is more sustainable and also inexpensive and abundant.

Kevin Arthur, Oxford PV’s Chief Executive and co-founder said:

“This is a hugely important breakthrough which could have a significant impact on the speed with which we can bring this important technology to market. The research and development team at Oxford PV has been manufacturing Pb-based perovskite cells to meet all international standards, the elimination of lead will certainly reduce customer concerns over recyclability over the life of the product.

“The use of tin gives us even more scope to produce incredibly cost effective solar cells. We have been predicting that our cells could generate power for as little as $0.20/Watt but this could drive down costs even further.”

Oxford PV is about to launch a further funding round to accelerate the commercialisation process. The company has already raised £7 million in equity and grant funding and is looking for an additional £15 million to trial fully operational modules. Founded in 2010, Oxford PV is expanding rapidly and recently announced the appointment of Dr. Christopher Case as Chief Technology Officer and David Smyth as Chief Financial Officer to boost its senior management team.

Professor Snaith acts as the firm’s Chief Scientific Officer. He was recently awarded Outstanding Young Investigator of the year by the Materials Research Society for his pioneering work on perovskite solar cells and was one of Nature magazine’s ten nominated people who made a difference in science during 2013.

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