A team of researchers from Cambridge, MIT, Oxford, Bath and Delft universities is working on perovskite-based "solar tarp" that can be rolled onto a rooftop, instead of using rigid and heavy panels. This could, on top of other advantages, significantly bring down installation costs.

The team explains that the idea of using perovskites isn’t new, but the problem had been that tiny imperfections in the mineral’s crystal structure would trap electrons before their energy could be tapped. The team successfully tested a treatment that uses the right combination of light and humidity during the manufacturing process to “fix” the material, getting it ready for potentially years of trouble-free, ultra-efficient use.

The treatment itself is said to be straightforward enough to be scalable to actual production of perovskite cells, since it’s just a question of exposing the half-made cells to light and humidity. The researchers have tested the treated perovskite cells over a few months, and report that the initial results are promising. Testing the long-term stability and resiliency of these cells will obviously take more time, but simulations of accelerated weathering should give us a better idea of how close we are.

“The bar is set very high with the panels that are on roofs now,” say the researchers. “Thirty years is the guarantee, so that means in many ways we’re aiming for that. And the hope is we will reach that, there’s a lot of work that still needs to be done to get there, but I think I’m very confident that we can get there with more work on these materials.”

“The long-term vision is really to bring down solar to very very low prices, make it accessible for everyone and really provide the utility-scale power,” says the team. “It would bring it down to a price where it really does change how we think about using power and how we power our houses. It’s of course a longer-term vision because these things take time to really come down in price.”