Groundhog Day is the name of a movie from 1993 in which Bill Murray plays an asshole reporter that seems to be destine to keep waking up on that same day until he gets being a human being right. Sometimes we feel like we are stuck in a scientific Groundhog Day, because we keep hearing promises, year after year, sometimes by universities, sometimes by companies.
One example is the perovskite solar cell, practically known as thin film solar cells. They have been around for as long as solar cells have been around, and come in many different chemistries, as opposed to the common silicon solar cells, where we have two flavours, monocrystaline and polycrystaline.
Perovskite is not a material, it is a structrure, a numeric relation between constituent atoms. They can have many interesting properties, which allows for their use in solar cells.
There are many stackings of materials that can form the Perovskite structure, and thus many types of cells. Two are shown above (upside down, the glass side should be up). The cell structure usually consists of a bottom electrode, a photosensitive material and a top electrode (often TinOxide covered glass). The trick is to allow photons to dislodge electrons from the material and make them collect on one side (the negative side) so they can be transported outside the cell to the positive side to do usefull work.
Perovskite cells are easy to make, they require less energy than silcon solar cells, even though they use glass. They can be printed on plastic as well, just like silicon cells can be encapsulated in EVA. The latter is not allowed for imported solar panels however, which adds to the cost enormously (but that’s typical in our fossil cashflow economy). This post is about the disturbing lack of serious progress on these low energy input, easy to locally make solar cells that now can have similar yield to silicon panels when they first came to market. We seem to be stuck with eternal promises!
Making a Perovskite Solar Cell is Easy
Below a number of videos from different years about making perovskite solar cells.
Buying Perovskite Solar Cells
You can buy a couple of thin film solar panels, but they are really not booming. We installed Solar Frontier Panels, that consist of a mix of Copper, Indium,Selenium and Gallium and now achieve 23% efficiency. They are hard to buy, and basically the only Prerovskite panels on the market, besides many small thin film cells. Why is this the case?
Thin Film and Perovskite are almost never used in the same context, which seems intended to make us think they are different things
The history of solar panels is one written by the fossil fuel industry. Of course they have been considered a threat from the start, so Royal Dutch Shell made a move in the 70’s to buy all patents for making monocrystaline silicon, and the factories, and the reserves of produced silcon, and then stop making it. Shell not only keeps pushing for a destructive basis for our economy, it has many times actively set humanity back when it comes to renewable technology. Patents ran out and people wanted solar panels so eventually the efforts to hold back the technology failed.
Who owns Solar Frontier? The name Shell is all over its history. You can look at it positively, that they actually did create factories and produce the panels and improve the efficiency. But is this fast? Is this hoarding of technology wise? What is so hard about it? No matter how well meant the actions of Shell seem up close, you can not trust them to do anything that goes against their business interest. Their corruption of every part of society, even up to the Club of Rome is a horrible fact of history and we are feeling the consequences in the weather paterns and food security today.
Koch Industries also owned solar panel plants in the US, with the same intent to control the growth of the technology
So we doubt that perovskite is too hard to become a product today. We just think that universities staffed with people that want to find out more, that want to do research, are researching too long. Often oil companies are telling people to find solutions, go look (which is just french for GET THE FUCK OUT OF MY FACE). We should be aprehensive of reinventions, which we have written about it several times. A new generation of gullible kids is growing up and before you know it they are told Algae for biofuels are a new thing, while in fact this idea has returned every fucking decade for the last 50 years.
The fossil interests, money and patents have been abused to stall innovation that would disrupt the current economic order. Solar is winning because too many people actualy use the technology. There is no way to stop this amount of intent.
Somehow we have to get out of Groundhog Day for preovskite cells, start makeing them in the cheapest lightest usefull way we can think off, there really can be no patent on usefull chemistries (it is required here to remark that new patents are granted on existing knowledge with tiny adjustments on a regular basis, the patent office has to earn money too you know!). We need to start asking questions to researchers and perhaps just start making perovskite solar cells.