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A New Solar Material Shows Its Potential

•, By Kevin Bullis
 A new solar cell material has properties that might lead to solar cells more than twice as efficient as the best on the market today. An article this week in the journal Nature describes the materials—a modified form of a class of compounds called perovskites, which have a particular crystalline structure.
The researchers haven’t yet demonstrated a high efficiency solar cell with the material. But their work adds to a growing body of evidence suggesting perovskite materials could change the face of solar power. Researchers are making new perovskites using combinations of elements and molecules not seen in nature; many researchers see the materials as the next great hope for making solar power cheap enough to compete with fossil fuels.
Perovskite-based solar cells have been improving at a remarkable pace. It took a decade or more for the major solar cell materials used today—silicon and cadmium telluride—to reach efficiency levels that have been demonstrated with perovskites in just four years. The rapid success of the material has impressed even veteran solar researchers who have learned to be cautious about new materials after seeing many promising ones come to nothing (see “A Material that Could Make Solar Power ‘Dirt Cheap’”).

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