Solar InkTM: replacing silicon on next generation solar cells

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Writing the future of renewable energy, Solaires’ Solar Ink is set to replace silicon on next-generation solar panels.

Solar energy today makes up 1.7% of the global electricity market, with most of that share coming from conventional silicon solar panels, which are less than ideal.

The fabrication process for silicon solar cells produces high greenhouse gas emissions, and it’s expensive. All told, installing 7.5kW of capacity costs around $25,000, and silicon solar cells are also bound by their properties to be rigid and opaque, limiting their range of application.

Scaling up solar energy production to the extent required to combat climate change will require moving beyond silicon.

The introduction of perovskite, while a breakthrough alternative to silicon, has brought its own set of challenges, weighty ones. One of the key challenges of perovskite ink is its low stability that limits its marketability. Also, because a key component of perovskite is lead and regulations and environmental considerations around lead have long prevented the broad use of lead in solar cells.

Dr. Shar Sam with her team in the lab

This then is the challenge Solaires took and ran with, and that’s how we got to Solar InkTM. Capitalizing on the expertise of some of Canada’s top materials scientists, the Solar Ink Development Project has been able to manufacture a perovskite ink with high stability and adaptable with large size coating processes to create thin, flexible and transparent solar panels with a low lead content in alignment with the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act.

The science and engineering teams at Solaires have been in a constant state of research and development directed at Solar InkTM since 2015. Breakthroughs in the lab have resulted in several related patents and have continuously improved upon the energy conversion efficiency and stability of the Solar InkTM project.

Achieving stability is vital to the success of the project as solar panels are subject to harsh conditions for extended periods of time and must be able to endure them while continuing to efficiently produce electricity. Solar InkTM is the product of a long and technical stability strategy and constant testing under a wide range of conditions. Due to certain breakthroughs leading to new proprietary technology, Solar InkTM now boasts the best stability and lifetime to date amongst perovskiteinks.

Market research around Solar InkTM has played a large part in defining the technology and the role that it will play in its key markets. This is a practical, adaptable innovation.

There’s a demand for a product that can be applied to a range of materials in order to create lightweight and flexible solar panels with high energy conversion efficiency. The manufacturing process is as flexible as the final result, making for a highly scalable product. Indeed the target customer is solar panel manufacturers worldwide, creating greater access to affordable, clean power around the globe.

In due course, the Solar Ink Development Project team (of which 60% are women, including a majority in both STEM-related roles and in positions of power) will introduce future applications. Window Photovoltaic Blinds, Photovoltaic Tiles, Smart Solar Cell Windows, Building Integrated photovoltaics, a range of internet of things applications, and related fields such as light-emitting diodes for use in display and lighting.

Solar Ink Project Timeline

Solar InkTM is lighting up and heating our not too distant futures, and that may well be just the beginning. Their innovations within the perovskite space will no doubt find other applications that drive other industries forward towards new creative and sustainable products.

Maintaining access for young people entering the industry is also part of Solaris’ ethos and part of their success. The development of Solar InkTM has relied on the input. A diverse and dynamic group of young people are able to participate in a range of co-op programs at the academic institutions with which the company is involved, benefiting everyone.

This will no doubt provide a ripple effect as this next generation of innovators take all they’ve learned and gained at Solaris with them as they continue to contribute to the outstanding cleantech industry in Canada.

Meanwhile, Solar InkTM is market-ready and set to make its mark on the solar industry, accelerating the transition to renewable energy.