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New two sided solar panel offers more power at a fraction of the cost says University

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Scientists at the University of Surrey have built a new kind of solar panel which can potentially generate more power at up to 70% less cost. 

The flexible panels, comprised of bifacial perovskite solar cells (see main photo), use single-walled carbon nanotubes as both front and back electrodes. These tubes are just 2.2 nanometres across – slightly thinner than a strand of human DNA. A piece of paper is thicker than 45,000 nanotubes stacked on top of each other.

The panels could generate over 36MW per square centimetre, with the back panel producing nearly the same amount of power (97%) as the front, which compares to 75-95% for most bifacial panels currently on the market.

Dr Jing Zhang, research fellow at Surrey’s Advanced Technology Institute, said:

“Our bifacial cells can harvest sunlight from both front and back panels. This generates more energy and depends less on which angle the light hits them.

“The carbon nanotubes we use are very transparent and conduct electricity well. They have the potential to bring clean power within reach for millions of people – and we look forward to seeing how our invention will be used.”

Professor Ravi Silva CBE, the director of the Advanced Technology Institute, said:

“The world cannot decarbonise without solar power. Yet that requires much cheaper solar energy than is currently available. Panels that can absorb the sun’s energy on both sides are a great way to make the technology more cost-effective.

“We have produced arguably the highest efficiency single junction solar cell to date. Our panels cost 70% less to make than a normal one-sided solar panel. This could significantly modify the market and simplify the architectures required based on perovskite solar cells.”

The Surrey scientists worked with colleagues at the University of Cambridge, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Xidian University, and Zhengzhou University, China, with the full study available in the Nature journal.

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