- What if one day all buildings could be equipped with windows and facades that satisfy the structure’s every energy need, whether rain or shine?
- That sustainability dream is today one step closer to becoming a reality thanks to Polish physicist and businesswoman Olga Malinkiewicz.
- The 36-year-old has developed a novel inkjet processing method for perovskites — a new generation of cheaper solar cells — that makes it possible to produce solar panels under lower temperatures, thus sharply reducing costs.
- Perovskite solar cells have the potential to address the world energy poverty.
- Solar panels coated with the mineral are light, flexible, efficient, inexpensive and come in varying hues and degrees of transparency.
- They can easily be fixed to almost any surface — be it laptop, car, drone, spacecraft or building — to produce electricity, including in the shade or indoors.
Though the excitement is new, perovskite has been known to science since at least the 1830s, when it was first identified by German mineralogist Gustav Rose while prospecting in the Ural mountains and named after Russian mineralogist Lev Perovski
In the following decades, synthesising the atomic structure of perovskite became easier.
- But it was not until 2009 that Japanese researcher Tsutomu Miyasaka discovered that perovskites can be used to form photovoltaic solar cells.
Initially the process was complicated and required ultra high temperatures, so only materials that could withstand extreme heat — like glass — could be coated with perovskite cells.
In 2013, researchers figured out a way to coat flexible foil with perovskites using an evaporation method.
Later, she developed an inkjet printing procedure that lowered production costs enough to make mass production economically feasible.
Now high temperatures are no longer required to coat things with a photovoltaic layer.