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Researchers on The Verge of Making Spray-On Solar Cells

The race is on to commercialize materials that could fundamentally alter the world's solar energy market in coming years.

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The race is on to commercialize materials that could fundamentally alter the world's solar energy market in coming years.

Bloomberg reports that solar companies and university researchers are edging closer to the development of perovskites capable of capturing the sun's energy about as efficiently as conventional silicon panels β€” but at a sharply lower cost.

Perovskites are a family of minerals with a crystal structure that first drew the interest of scientists as a possible solar energy resource more than 10 years ago.

In recent years, numerous laboratories demonstrated that perovskite cells could convert sunlight to energy at a rate of more than 20 percent, which would approach the efficiency of silicon-based cells.

More importantly, Bloomberg noted that perovskite crystals could be incorporated into a liquid and easily applied to a wide range of surfaces β€” from homes to skyscrapers to cars β€” to dramatically increase the world's capability for harvesting sunlight.

Scientists cautioned that more research is needed to make perovskite cells more stable, and some skeptics question the technology's potential.

Others, however, warned that the $42 billion solar energy industry should prepare for significant upheaval.

A firm in the U.K. reportedly plans to begin selling a thin perovskite cell by the end of next year.

β€œThis is the front-runner of low-cost solar cell technologies,” University of Tokyo professor Hiroshi Segawa told Bloomberg.

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