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The alliance between academic and industrial research is fundamental to accelerating the energy transition. This is why we are taking part in international projects focused on finding increasingly efficient technological solutions that will exploit renewable sources. One example is the Core 3 Spearhead Project Grapes, a European Union initiative that is part of the Graphene Flagship, a major project researching the use of graphene in which the EU is investing a billion euro, Enel power announced.
Graphene is a very versatile material with applications in a wide variety of fields such electronics, sensors, aeronautics and, of course, photovoltaics which comprises a single layer (monolayer) of carbon atoms. The research group which is led by Foti is working specifically on using graphene, which has the same theoretical strength as a diamond and the flexibility of plastic, to integrate silicone and perovskite cells.
Foti, who trained as a physicist said “Silicone cells have a theoretical efficiency limit of 29 per cent and a practical one of 26-27 per cent”.
The technology required to exceed these limits is a tandem or multi-junction cell in which two cells are overlapped with each one converting a different part of the solar spectrum into energy. The silicone cell converts the red end of the light spectrum into energy while the perovskite absorbs the blue and green part, thereby boosting efficiency, she added.
Enel power researched that Graphene can optimize performances and reduce costs: indeed, researchers are attempting to use it to replace all or part of the more expensive silver used in conductive adhesive. According to some studies, placing a layer of graphene between the silicone and perovskite cells may be the ideal way to produce a significant improvement in efficiency and reliability.
Marina Foti, head of the GRAPES project for Enel Green Power said that “The challenge is to take a quite unstable material to the industrial phase, while being aware that a panel has to maintain the same performance levels for 30 years”.
The results will benefit the whole photovoltaic sector which, together with wind energy, has been the driving force behind the acceleration of the energy transition – the move to cutting fossil fuel-related carbon dioxide emissions – over the last decade, according to the developer.
The average cost of generating electricity over a photovoltaic system’s lifespan fell by 80% between 2010 and 2019, compared to 39% for wind power in the same period. This reduction has resulted in renewables becoming widely competitive in terms of cost or sometimes actually more economical than fossil fuels. Constant innovation can boost efficiency still further with huge benefits for the environment, According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).
The challenge is to find a permanent link between the academic partners and businesses working on this and other projects. And it’s also to value interdisciplinary and multicultural approaches because the impetus for finding new solutions can come from very different experiences and ways of thinking. Enel has made great progress in this area – diversity. Our Global Diversity Policy is looking at a series of practical initiatives focused on promoting equal opportunities and diversity, Foti concluded.