Over the past five years, rapid progress in photovoltaic technology has been further accelerated by materials called perovskites. They require only common ingredients and relatively easy manufacturing methods, holding out the possibility of cheap thin-film cells on a variety of surfaces or combined with silicon in large panels. In the laboratory, small-area cells made with these materials already feature solar-conversion efficiencies as high as 22%, rivaling those of traditional silicon solar cells.
"I've been in the business since the late 70s," said David Cahen, a chemist and materials scientist at the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot, Israel. "This is a time of developments in solar cells and photovoltaics that is unprecedented," including new materials, efficiency improvements, and cost reductions. But "there has not been anything like this one," he said. "The perovskites have put all of those into shadow."
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