Researchers have developed spray-on solar cells that may make sustainable energy more available to the masses.

Scientists have developed spray-on solar cells that can be applied in a similar method to that of car paint. The development could dramatically decrease the price of solar electricity and can be mass-produced to make sustainable energy generation more ubiquitous. The spray-on method would also yield very little waste, which would help keep manufacturing costs low. 

The cells are made from perovskite, a material that rivals the ever-popular silicon. The material is low-cost and low-energy. And, thanks to the spray-on method, the cells could be embedded on anything from clothing to cars.

“There is a lot of excitement around perovskite-based photovoltaics,” said David Lidzey, lead researcher from The University of Sheffield. “Remarkably, this class of material offers the potential to combine the high performance of mature solar cell technologies with the low embedded energy costs of production of organic photovoltaics.”

He added: “What we have done is replace the key light absorbing layer – the organic layer – with a spray-painted perovskite. Using a perovskite absorber instead of an organic absorber gives a significant boost in terms of efficiency.”

However, the new cells' efficiency isn't quite as good as silicon, but they are much better than that of organic solar cells.

“The best certified efficiencies from organic solar cells are around 10%,” said Lidzey. “Perovskite cells now have efficiencies of up to 19%. This is not so far behind that of silicon at 25% – the material that dominates the worldwide solar market.”

The team has managed to achieve 11% efficiency, but believe they will be able to improve this with further research.

The study, however, has shown that these super-thin spray-on solar cells bring sustainable energy closer to mass production. Lidzey believes solar energy will eventually become a much larger player in power generation around the world.