May 30, 2024

‘A catalyst to revolutionize the field’

A crucial doorway to sustainable, efficient next-generation solar energy may have been unlocked.

Solar energy development has expanded rapidly in recent years, and quantum dot solar cell research has been a driver of that trend. Last year, the three scientists who discovered and developed QD solar cells in recent decades were awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

Now, researchers at South Korea’s Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology have shared they’ve experienced a breakthrough in developing quantum dot (QD) solar cells with a world-record efficiency of 18.1%, which is up from 16.6% in 2020.

“This study [and its results serve] as a catalyst to revolutionize the field of QD solar cell material research in the future,” said Sung-Yeon Jang, professor at UNIST’s School of Energy and Chemical Engineering.

Solar energy can be harnessed in three ways: solar heating and cooling, concentrating solar power, and photovoltaics. 

Quantum dots, which fall into the photovoltaic category, are tiny, circular crystals that are great at absorbing and emitting light. Along with being efficient, UNIST’s QD solar cells are exceptionally stable, maintaining performance even after long-term storage for two years.

“This remarkable achievement represents the highest efficiency among quantum dot solar cells recognized by the prestigious National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in the United States,” Jang said.

Demand for solar energy in the United States is at an all-time high, and it presents some unique advantages over other renewable energy sources. It’s the cheapest source of electricity “in history,” according to the IEA’s World Energy Outlook from 2020. It’s also the most abundant energy source, with more than 10,000 times the world’s total energy use continuously hitting the Earth’s surface.

Breakthroughs in QD solar cells are paving the way to harnessing the power of the sun for sustainable energy solutions in the future. 

While this technology may take some time to hit or have an effect on residential markets, solar panels already available are much better than decades ago, so installing rooftop solar panels and signing up for community solar are both good investment options to start cutting into that 10,000 times figure. 

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