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A solar cell you could make on the moon

As part of a project headed by the European Space Agency investigating materials for long-term missions, scientists in Estonia are investigating a tiny iron-based crystal as a potential solar cell material. So far, the material has not achieved the sort of efficiency that would spark a lot of interest. These researchers, however, are interested in it for a different reason: Beyond planet Earth, the material is abundant enough that it could eventually be manufactured on the Moon or even Mars.

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A year in PV: Technology trends in 2021

The PV industry in 2021 has largely been defined by disruption: Price increases from raw materials to final shipping have led to shortages in PV module supply and project delays the world over. Despite these upsets, innovation has continued at pace, and the year has seen plenty of technological twists and turns that are sure to spell good news for solar in the long run. Read on for a look back at some of the biggest developments.

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Iran brings 150MW solar cell factory online

Dec. 23 saw the inauguration of a new solar cell factory in the city of Khomeini, according to the Iranian government’s Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Organization. The factory, operated by Tehran headquartered company Mana Energy Pak, will be among the first in the region to produce silicon solar cells.

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Damaging defects in silicon solar cells

Scientists in the UK investigated the relationship between two of the most worrisome defects that can affect solar cells in the field – cracking and hotspots. Their work analyzed solar cells with different levels of cracking under varying light conditions, finding that the most severely cracked cells were considerably more likely to run at high temperatures and form damaging hotspots.

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Behind PID in bifacial solar cells

New research from Germany outlines mechanisms behind a form of potential-induced degradation specifically affecting the rear side of bifacial solar cells. Results suggest that the issue may be more complex than previously thought; and avoiding irreversible damage to cells in the field will require a rethink of testing standards.

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Defining BIPV

Incorporating solar into our built environments represents an opportunity for hundreds of gigawatts to be installed worldwide without taking up any additional land. In many cases though, this will require solutions beyond typical rooftop PV installations and much closer cooperation between the PV and construction industries. A new report published by IEA PVPS looks to bring together the interests of both worlds, and clearly categorize both the building envelope and energy functions of different BIPV components.

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Google lends a hand in the search for new solar cell designs with open-source tool

Scientists in the United States developed a computer simulator that can calculate the conversion efficiency of different solar cell materials and configurations – helping to guide research and optimization of new cell designs. The simulator is available to researchers as an open-source tool to save time and spot the best opportunities for optimization of any given approach.

Grid stability and 100% renewables

New research from Stanford University professor Mark Jacobson seeks to remove any doubts about grid stability in a world powered entirely by renewable energy. The latest study models 100% wind water and solar powered grids across the United States, finding no risk of blackouts in any region and also broad benefits in cost reduction, job creation and land use.

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Ultra-thin silicon layers for 22.2%-efficient heterojunction solar cell

Scientists in the Netherlands fabricated a heterojunction solar cell with a layer of hydrogenated nanocrystalline silicon just three nanometers thick. The cell’s efficiency was measured at 22.2%, below the highest achieved with HJT cells, however, the researchers note that successfully incorporating this material into the cell stack will open many new doors for improvement.

Fast charging for lithium-ion batteries needs a fix

Scientists in the United States placed fast charging for lithium-ion batteries under the microscope, finding that charging at higher rates can quickly damage the structure of a graphite anode, causing capacity loss even after a small number of cycles. By identifying the mechanisms causing this performance loss, the group can help point future research in the right direction.

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