50 Ideas to Change the World: Better batteries, solar cells

Britain’s Financial Times has launched the new year with a series “50 Ideas To Change The World” and included in the series are articles about alternatives to silicon for solar cells and lithium-ion for batteries.

Batteries

As the world’s power needs grow, the search is on for better battery technology — not just to keep smartphones charged for longer, but to run electric cars and to store energy produced by solar and wind power.

For the last 25 years, the lithium-ion battery, has held sway. Packing a large amount of energy into a relatively small space and weight, these are in greater demand than ever for mobile phones and electric cars. In fact, 2017 has been, in the words of HSBC’s Paul Bloxham, a nirvana for lithium. The price of the commodity has been driven 240 per cent higher. Batteries accounted for 35 per cent of lithium use in 2015, up from 25 per cent in 2007, with electric vehicles, phones and personal computers accounting for 60 per cent of that market.

Lithium-ion’s limitations are apparent, however, to anyone who has seen their mobile phone battery draining suddenly. There is a growing interest in finding alternative technologies.

Read the full article: Beyond lithium – the search for a better battery at FT.com

Solar cells 

The ability to transform the energy of the sun into electricity has already changed energy markets around the world. Last year more than 90 gigawatts of solar power were installed globally — equivalent to the energy generating capacity of Turkey.

However, researchers believe that in coming years solar power could become even more efficient and cheaper than it is now. While most solar cells today are made from silicon, a key area to watch is the development of new materials for solar cells. One of the most promising of these is a family of crystals known as perovskites (named after the Russian geologist Lev Perovski).

Certain perovskites are very good at absorbing light, and have been shown to have a power conversion efficiency of 22 per cent, on par with traditional silicon cells.

Read the full article: Alternative to silicon offers cheaper solar power at FT.com

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