Stanford University Scientists Turn to Insects for New Solar panel Design

Due to environmental problems, many folks have decided to adopt alternative energy. The most common is no other than solar panels, but the pricing makes it difficult for most homeowners to get in on the fun. It simply means there needs to be a cheaper alternative, and thankfully, a team at Stanford is working on one.

The scientists at Stanford University are working to create a cost efficient photovoltaic mineral called perovskite, which is a great option for those who are willing to switch over to solar. We understand that when it comes down to converting sunlight into electrical energy, perovskites are just as efficient when as silicon solar cells.

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There’s a catch with perovskite

Perovskite is just as good, that much is certain. However, the quality of the material is not very durable. They can deteriorate easily when exposed to harsh sunlight and the elements in general, and this has a lot to do with the fragile material. Now then, the team had to come up with a smart way to make the material durable, and as such, they’ve decided to take inspiration from insects.

To get an idea of what the Stanford University scientists are working on, we only need to look at insect eyes, especially flies. Looking at this particular insect, it’s clear it has a compound eye that shapes like a honeycomb. Within the compound is home to hundreds of tiny eyes that allow the fly to see its surroundings better.

The team added perovskite microcells into a hexagon-shaped scaffold made out of resin. It measures at around 0.02 inches wide, which is quite small, though it’s only for testing, so it makes sense. The researchers then put hundreds of the hexagon-shaped scaffold together in a bid to mimic a fly’s compound eye.

Nicholas Rolston, the co-lead author of the project, says resin is “resilient to mechanical stresses.” Not only that, the scaffold barrier protects the minerals.

Does it actually work?

To get an idea of whether or not the idea is good enough, the team exposed their design to temperatures as high as 185 degrees Farenhight and 85 percent humidity for six weeks. As it stands, the insect eyes were able to stand firm under those harsh conditions while at the same time generating electricity reliably.

Interestingly enough, the researchers believe they can boost the efficiency of the cells despite the early success.

“We are very excited about these results,” says professor of materials science and engineering, Reinhold Dauskardt. “It’s a new way of thinking about designing solar cells. These scaffold cells also look really cool, so there are some interesting aesthetic possibilities for real-world applications.”

This doesn’t mean perovskite is a better option over silicon cells, but the material is cheaper, and that’s the most important aspect.