A team of German researchers has developed solar panels 1,000 times more powerful than today’s by arranging three different layers of ferroelectric crystals in the shape of lattices.
Scientists at Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) used three different materials – barium titanate, strontium titanate and calcium titanate – to achieve the highly efficient pattern. Their findings were detailed in the journal Science Advances.
“Ferroelectric means that the material has spatially separated positive and negative charges,” said Dr Akash Bhatnagar, one of the study’s authors.
Thus, in the case of photovoltaic cells based on ferroelectric crystals, a p-n junction is not required, as with silicon crystals. The p-n junction is the region between two types of semiconductor material, one p-type and one n-type, within the same semiconductor crystal. The ‘p’ (positive) side contains an excess of ‘holes’ (electron-deficient regions), while the ‘n’ (negative) side contains an excess of electrons in the outer shells of neutral atoms. This allows electric current to flow through the junction in only one direction.
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The creators of the new ferroelectric crystal-based panels believe they will be easier to produce on a large scale than current ones.
We’re living through a green energy revolution
This period seems to be the start of a revolution in renewable energy. The breakthrough in Germany comes shortly after a team of researchers in California announced a first-ever net energy gain from a nuclear fusion reaction.
At the same time, scientists at KU Leuven University in Belgium have developed panels that use solar energy to produce hydrogen.
Also in the US, startup Aeromine Technologies claims to have developed a rooftop wind turbine that can replace up to 16 solar panels.