Innovation That Matters

Researchers at Swansea University are exploring how solar cells could be printed onto building steel | Photo source Dakota Roos on Unsplash

Generating clean energy from building steel

Agriculture & Energy

Perovskite solar cells printed onto steel could play a pivotal role in making solar power more affordable and accessible

Spotted: As the world looks to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels, solar roofs could enable buildings to generate, store, and release their own secure supply of electricity. This concept is called ‘Active Buildings’ and has been successfully demonstrated by two buildings on the Swansea University campus for several years.

Now, experts at the university are taking the idea further by embarking on a three-year research collaboration with Tata Steel UK. The partnership will develop solar roofing panels which are greener, lighter, cheaper, and more flexible. And the key feature? The panels can be printed directly onto the steel used in buildings.

The panels use Perovskite solar cell (PSC) technology. PSC technology is a cheaper and lighter alternative to silicon-based solar panels. PSCs are made from a class of materials called perovskites, which can be readily produced from inexpensive and readily available ingredients. PSC could play a pivotal role in making solar power more affordable and accessible, and it could also be significantly more sustainable. PSC cells are associated with less than half the carbon emissions of a silicon cell.

One of the key characteristics of the perovskite solar cells is that they are flexible and can be applied directly to surfaces, making them ideal for use in roofing materials or printing. Using techniques such as screen printing, PSC could be applied directly to materials such as coated steel.

Springwise has spotted a number of other innovations looking at decentralised solar power. Belgian startup Octave has designed a battery energy storage system (BESS) for stationary energy applications, while a UK company is incorporating solar cells into blackout blinds.

Written By: Katrina Lane

Email: k.g.sullivan@swansea.ac.uk

Website: swansea.ac.uk

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