A shining light in solar cell innovation

3D illustration of a Solar Panel with with reflections of the sky clouds and sun rays

Credit: Alberto Masnovo / GettyImages

An Oxfordshire company backed by Innovate UK, has set a record for efficiency in converting sunlight to power.

Oxford Photovoltaics (Oxford PV), based at the Oxford Industrial Park, develops next-generation solar cell technology for an ‘all-electric future’. It is using a material called perovskite overlaid on traditional silicon-based solar cells to boost electricity output and reach efficiency levels that could exceed 30%.

Typical silicon solar cells convert about 20 to 22% of the available solar energy into electricity.  But Oxford PV’s perovskite-on-silicon solar cell has set a world record of 27.3% certified efficiency. This exceeds the highest ever performing single-junction silicon solar cell.

Solar cells

Seven years ago, Innovate UK awarded £100,000 to Oxford PV co-founder Professor Henry Snaith to explore the commercial possibilities of low cost and transparent solar cells. His academic work had already been extensively supported by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

Now the company’s chief scientific officer, his world class research in photovoltaics earned him a fellowship of The Royal Society at just 37 years old in 2015.

That first grant was important in opening the door for private investors’ seed funding, according to chief technology officer Chris Case:

Our first money came from an Innovate UK grant in 2010 and helped fund our spin-out. Without question, our origin is traceable to Innovate UK.

Further Innovate UK R&D grants supported development of a glazing product, imprinted with perovskite solar cells, that could generate electricity for individual buildings.

With a remit to speed up commercialisation of the core technology, Chris has since focused attention on the global need to convert sunlight into electricity on a multi-terawatt scale.

Phasing out fossil fuels demands a more efficient, lower cost generic technology and Chris is sure that Oxford PV can play a lead role bringing an all-electric future closer to reality:

We’re on a growth curve that looks positive – quite fast progress for a disruptive technology.

We’re now at a stage where I’m no longer worried about the technology or the engineering to make it work at scale.

Last updated: 27 April 2021

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