Oxford firm receives £8.7m investment on technology to improve solar efficiency

A company founded as a "spin-out" from the University of Oxford has received a new equity investment of £8.7m, as it aims to accelerate the commercialisation of a solar cell that could boost the performance of photovoltaics by 30%.

Oxford Photovoltaics (Oxford PV) latest investment has seen the total equity raised over the last 18 months reach £21.3m, and the funding will be used on a “breakthrough” perovskite technology which is applied as a thin-film layer to silicon solar cells. Further investment is also expected before the end of 2016.

“Energy consumption is set to double within the next 20 to 30 years. Perovskite has the potential to radically improve the efficiency of solar PV and meet the world’s energy demand into the future,” Oxford PV’s chief executive Frank Averdung said.

“Our technology has already demonstrated the efficiency and stability necessary to engage commercially with major industry players and become a key part of enhancing solar energy supply in years to come. This investment will support Oxford PV as we take large steps towards commercialisation. I would like to thank our Board and shareholders for their support and for sharing our vision.”

The company claims that the technology can boost cell output by around 30%, and hopes to use the latest investment to bring it one step closer to commercialisation. Perovskite materials have risen in efficiency at a staggering rate since 2010, with efficiency levels growing from less than 4% in 2010 to a certified standard of 20.1% in 2014.

Oxford PV was co-founded in 2010 by professor Henry Snaith, who was one of the first to delve into the low-cost, highly efficient potential of perovskite technology and was also named as the second most influential scientific mind in the world last year by Thomson Reuters.

A portion of the funding has already been set aside in order to create a demonstration line aimed at incentivising manufacturers to invest in the company and the technology. Oxford PV believes that the technology will enable cell manufacturers to improve efficiency in a market it feels is valued at £100bn.

Bright minds

UK universities have acted as hotbed for solar cell innovations over the past few years. Previously, the University of Exeter has claimed that mimicking the structure of a butterfly’s wings could boost the output of solar panels by almost 50%.

A team of scientists at the University of Sheffield have also developed a spray-painting method for applying new, perovskite solar cells, having previously used the spraying method to produce solar cells using organic semiconductors.

Last year, researchers at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) successfully created electricity-generating solar-cells with chemicals found the shells of shrimps and other crustaceans for the first time.

Matt Mace

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