Can biomaterials help finally thrust perovskite solar cells to mainstream adoption?
- Perovskite solar cells are an emerging type of solar technology that's more efficient than current photovoltaic technologies, but hasn't yet been adopted due to problems related to cost and stability.
- In a recent study, scientists treated perovskite solar cells with small amounts of capsaicin, finding that the compound improved both stability and efficiency.
- In 2022, a British startup plans to bring perovskite solar cells to market for the first time.
Using biomaterials to boost solar technology<p><br>The team needs to conduct more research to determine exactly why capsaicin boosts the efficacy and stability of perovskite solar cells, but they hypothesized that the compound increases the density of electrons on the perovskite film due to the way it interacts with lead ions in the solar cell.</p><p>Biomaterials like capsaicin could someday make perovskite solar cells economically viable, but the techniques still need to be improved.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"In the future, green and sustainable forest-based biomaterial additive technology will be a clear trend in non-toxic lead-free perovskite materials," Qinye Bao, a senior author of the study from East China Normal University, said in a <a href="https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2021-01/cp-tct010721.php" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">statement</a>. "We hope this will eventually yield a fully green perovskite solar cell for a clean energy source."</p><p>The recent study isn't the first time scientists have used biomaterials to boost the performance of perovskite solar cells: <a href="https://www.osa-opn.org/home/newsroom/2019/april/a_caffeine_boost_for_perovskite_solar_cells/" target="_blank">Caffeine</a> and the protein <a href="https://optics.org/news/10/10/40" target="_blank">bacteriorhodopsin (bR)</a> have also shown benefits. The main appeal of biomaterials is that they're abundant in the environment, so they're relatively cheap and easy to obtain compared to synthetic materials.</p>
The future of perovskite solar cells<p>Since perovskite absorbers were first used in solar cells in 2006, efficiency rates have climbed from just 3 percent to over 25 percent. Research also suggests that pairing perovskite solar cells with silicon could boost efficiency levels to nearly <a href="https://newatlas.com/energy/tandem-silicon-perovskite-solar-cells-record-efficiency/?itm_source=newatlas&itm_medium=article-body" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">30 percent</a>.</p><p>Joe Berry, a senior scientist at the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory, <a href="https://youtu.be/9PhovLOOtfM" target="_blank">said</a>:</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"The potential impact for perovskite solar cells is basically transformational," he said, adding that the long term goal is to cut manufacturing costs and make them ubiquitous. "That is to say, you can put them everywhere. You can literally paint them on the side of a building and everything then become something that can produce electricity and power."</p>
Researchers from Harvard receive permission for a test that may help cool Earth and fight global warming.
- Swedish space agency allows Harvard researchers to test a stratospheric balloon next year.
- The balloon may eventually be used to release particles into the atmosphere to reflect sunlight.
- The goal would be to cool Earth and fight back against global warming but the approach has critics.
Finding the right "dose" for solar geoengineering<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="14d9d611a13c13f7076db25b4786bf35"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/N50tIzzPlg8?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
SCoPEx: Stratospheric Controlled Perturbation Experiment
- The International Energy Agency is an intergovernmental organization that advises member nations on issues related to energy and the environment.
- In its annual report, the IEA reported that the cost of solar is dropping more rapidly than previously thought, providing some parts of the world with historically cheap electricity.
- The IEA predicted that, over the next decade, renewables will meet 80 percent of global electricity demand growth, while the demand for oil will peak.
Sweden tops the ranking for the third year in a row.
What does COVID-19 mean for the energy transition? While lockdowns have caused a temporary fall in CO2 emissions, the pandemic risks derailing recent progress in addressing the world's energy challenges.
WEF Fostering Effective Energy Transition 2020 edition<h3>The 10 countries most prepared for the energy transition</h3><p>Sweden tops the overall ETI ranking for the third consecutive year as the country most ready to transition to clean energy, followed by Switzerland and Finland. There has been little change in the top 10 since the last report, which demonstrates the energy stability of these developed nations, although the gap with the lowest-ranked countries is closing.</p><p>Top-ranked countries share a reduced reliance on imported energy, lower energy subsidies and a strong political commitment to transforming their energy sector to meet climate targets.</p><p>The UK and France are the only two G20 economies in the top 10 however, which is otherwise made up of smaller nations.</p><p>Powerful shocks Outside the top 10, progress has been modest in Germany. Ranked 20th, the country has committed to phasing out coal-fired power plants and moving industrial output to cleaner fuels such as hydrogen, but making energy services affordable remains a struggle.</p>
Kevin Frayer/Getty Images<h3>China currently has the world's largest solar PV capacity</h3><p>China, ranked 78th, has made strong advances in controlling CO2 emissions by switching to electric vehicles and investing heavily in solar and wind energy - it currently has the world's largest solar PV and onshore wind capacity. Alongside China, countries including Argentina, India and Italy have shown consistent strong improvements every year. Gains over time have also been recorded by Bangladesh, Bulgaria, Kenya and Oman, among others.</p><p>But high energy-consuming countries including the US, Canada and Brazil show little, if any, progress towards an energy transition.</p><p>In the US (ranked 32nd), moves to establish a more sustainable energy sector have been hampered by policy decisions. Neighbouring Canada grapples with the conflicting demands of a growing economy and the need to decarbonize the energy sector.</p><p>The COVID-19 pandemic serves as a reminder of the impact of external shocks on the global economy. As climate change increases the likelihood of weather extremes such as floods, droughts and violent storms, the need for more sustainable energy practices is intensified.</p><p>Policy-makers need to develop a robust framework for energy transition at local, national and international levels, capable of guarding against such shocks.</p><p>"The coronavirus pandemic offers an opportunity to consider unorthodox intervention in the energy markets, and global collaboration to support a recovery that accelerates the energy transition once the acute crisis subsides," says Roberto Bocca, Head of Energy & Materials at the World Economic Forum.</p><p>"This giant reset grants us the option to launch aggressive, forward-thinking and long-term strategies leading to a diversified, secure and reliable energy system that will ultimately support the future growth of the world economy in a sustainable and equitable way."</p><p>Reprinted with permission of the <a href="https://www.weforum.org/" target="_blank">World Economic Forum</a>. Read the <a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/05/energy-transition-index-2020-eti-clean-sustainable-power/" target="_blank">original article</a>.</p>
There's a lot we can do with current technology to help stem the tide of climate change, but future technology may help even more.
- Part of what makes fighting climate change so hard is that solutions take years or even decades to develop.
- Meanwhile, the amount of CO2 already in the atmosphere means that climate change has momentum on its side, and its effects are already being felt.
- However, quantum computing would represent a breakthrough that could cut down on the time needed to research and develop solutions exponentially, turning the work of decades into years or less.
What is quantum computing?<p>At the fundamental level, classical computers use bits to operate, simple pieces of binary information that can have two values: 0 or 1. Quantum computers take advantage of quantum particles' weird ability to exist in <a href="https://www.wired.co.uk/article/quantum-computing-explained" target="_blank">several states simultaneously</a>. Rather than represent a 0 or 1, a "qubit" can exist as both simultaneously. </p><p>Imagine you have four bits. Together, those four bits can have one of 16 possible combinations, such as 1011. Four qubits, however, can be in all 16 combinations at once. As more qubits get involved, these potential values grow exponentially, meaning that our computing power grows exponentially as well. </p><p>There's quite a bit more involved, but the important thing to know is that quantum computers absolutely smoke classical computers when solving complicated problems. Some problems exist that would take a classical computer literally millions of years to solve that a quantum computer could solve in days or less. Solving these problems are the ones that are going to help us address climate change.</p>
1. Deploying better CO2-scrubbing compounds<p>The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has stated that cutting CO2 emissions <a href="https://insideclimatenews.org/news/12102018/global-warming-solutions-negative-emissions-carbon-capture-technology-ipcc-climate-change-report" target="_blank">isn't enough</a> to stop climate change; we'll need to remove the CO2 that's already in the atmosphere. To a large extent, we can accomplish this by planting more trees, but this isn't a perfect solution. Trees take a long time to grow (and sequester carbon in so doing), can be prone to fires (which will become more common as the Earth warms), and are tempting targets for logging (which emits CO2).</p><p>Using chemical catalysts to capture CO2 for storage or to convert it into useful products is one way to overcome this. But existing catalysts tend to be made of expensive materials or are difficult to deploy. It'd be a huge step if we could identify cheaper, easier-to-make compounds that can scrub CO2 from the atmosphere more effectively.</p><p>But here, we run into a problem. Accurately simulating chemical compounds takes a lot of processing power. Every atom added to a compound makes simulation <a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/12/quantum-computing-applications-climate-change/" target="_blank">exponentially more difficult</a>, requiring us to use our best guesses in a tedious trial and error process instead. Currently, quantum computers can simulate simple compounds with a few dozen qubits. Experts claim that if we could scale that up to around a million qubits, we would likely be able to simulate the compounds that are likely to be more effective at capturing CO2.</p>
2. Developing better batteries<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjQ5ODYyNy9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0Mzc4NzcxMn0.utiPcb6M0dUz6mM5wSWVnIlRC2HbaGidZ9MmsnI-yYg/img.jpg?width=980" id="bc901" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ccb8f16fc49b0f5118f089aaade47477" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="IBM Quantum computer" />
IBM's Q System One quantum computer.
Misha Friedman/Getty Images<p>Almost every aspect of renewable energy technology is mature enough to replace traditional fossil fuels right now, save for one major stumbling block: battery technology. Fossil fuels function as a stable store by themselves, ready to undergo combustion to release the energy stored in gasoline or coal. But the pure electricity generated from solar energy or the turning of wind turbines needs to be stored somewhere, especially since the wind isn't always blowing and the sun isn't always shining.</p><p>Current batteries, however, are too expensive to implement at the scale needed to store the world's energy needs, and they don't <a href="https://www.wired.com/story/better-battery-renewable-energy-jason-pontin/" target="_blank">store energy long enough</a>. Like CO2-scrubbing catalysts, advances in battery technology are made through physical prototyping and testing. Using a quantum computer to simulate the complicated chemistry that hypothetically better batteries would employ would make this process many, many times faster.</p><p>This approach has attracted significant attention since batteries are such a widely used commodity. One notable example of first-movers in this arena is <a href="https://www.wired.com/story/better-battery-renewable-energy-jason-pontin/" target="_blank">Mercedes-Benz</a>, who has partnered with IBM's quantum computing program in order to build better batteries for electric cars.</p>