University of Sydney's Professor Anita Ho-Baillie is joining forces with Sydney-based renewable technology company SunDrive to commercialize perovskite-silicon cells, with backing from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) of AUD$2.78 million (over USD$1.9 million).
Other investigators on the project include Professor David McKenzie, Dr Jianghui Zheng and Dr Arafat Mahmud, who are based at the University of Sydney, and Mr Vince Allen, Mr David Hu and Professor Alison Lennon from SunDrive.
Round one of ARENA’s Transformative Research Accelerating Commercialization Program, which began in February and came to a close in August, had a total of AUD$40 million to distribute to support ultra-low cost solar photovoltaic (PV) research and development. With the financial backing of the Australian Government, the research project led by Professor Ho-Baillie, in collaboration with SunDrive, will improve the commercial viability of perovskite-silicon tandem solar cells.
This project will focus on stacking perovskite on top of silicon to form a tandem solar cell, rather than using silicon on its own.
“The idea of this stacking is to convert more energy from the sun to electrical power,” said Professor Ho-Baillie. “The efficiency that can be achieved by a perovskite-silicon tandem in a laboratory is now over 30 percent, while the highest efficiency for a silicon cell on its own is just below 27 percent in the laboratory and around 23 percent commercially. There isn’t much room for silicon to improve because its theoretical limit is only 30 percent – but for perovskite-silicon tandem, it is 40 percent.”
The cell design is the “future” of solar technology, according to Professor Ho-Baillie, but there are a few steps to tackle before reaching that endpoint.
“To make them the main commercial option, we need to improve the durability of these cells – especially under the combination of thermal and light stress,” said Professor Ho-Baillie. “We also need to develop industry-relevant manufacturing processes that are cost-effective.
“Lastly, we need to develop technologies of encapsulating and packaging the tandem cells to larger solar panels. These panels, not just the cells themselves, also have to be durable and highly efficient.”
SunDrive is an Australian solar technology company founded in 2015 to commercialize its proprietary low-cost metallization technology for silicon solar cells. The company has been successful in progressing from lab-scale proof-of-concept to commercial, full-size solar panel fabrication, and has raised $21 million in its latest Series A funding round drawing support from Main Sequence Ventures, Virescent Ventures, Blackbird Ventures, Grok Ventures, former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull and Canva co-founder Cameron Adams.
SunDrive is one of the only two companies in the world which has demonstrated full-area commercial-size cells with a certified efficiency above 26 percent.
“It’s exciting that ARENA is supporting this project with the goal of accelerating the development of more progressive solar technologies such as perovskite silicon tandems,” said Vincent Allen, co-founder and chief executive of SunDrive. “We very much look forward to working with Professor Ho-Baillie and her team.”