What New Invention Is Better Than Solar Panels?

Solar panels have become an increasingly popular source of renewable energy in recent years, with households and businesses installing them to reduce their carbon footprint and electricity costs. Solar panels work by absorbing sunlight and converting it into electricity to power homes and buildings. While they have many benefits, like lowering power bills and reducing reliance on fossil fuels, solar panels also come with some downsides that are important to consider.

On the plus side, solar panels can significantly lower or even eliminate monthly electricity expenses once the initial system costs are recovered. They can provide energy independence and security, as all the power is generated onsite. Solar energy production creates no emissions, helping homeowners reduce their carbon footprint. The systems have a long lifespan, with warranties ranging from 25-30 years. As technology improves, solar panels are also becoming more efficient and affordable.

However, solar panels also come with disadvantages. The upfront costs can be high, anywhere from $10,000 to $25,000 for installation and equipment. They rely on ample sunlight to produce electricity, so they are weather and location dependent. Solar systems require physical space for the panels, which can be limiting in urban areas. Without battery storage, solar panels don’t provide power at night. There are also considerations around maintenance, permitting, and grid connections that factor into the decision to go solar.

Perovskite Solar Cells

Perovskite solar cells are a new type of solar cell that have the potential to be more efficient and lower cost than traditional silicon solar panels. Perovskites are a class of materials with a specific crystal structure formed of calcium titanium oxide (CaTiO3) that have promising properties for absorbing light and generating electricity.

Perovskite solar cells typically have a layered structure with a perovskite material as the light absorber sandwiched between two charge transport layers. When light hits the perovskite layer, electrons are knocked loose and create an electric current. The perovskite’s crystal structure makes it very effective at absorbing light across the solar spectrum.

silicon solar cell under a microscope

Researchers have achieved lab cell efficiencies over 25% with perovskites, compared to around 20% for mainstream silicon panels. And perovskite cells potentially cost a fraction to manufacture compared to traditional solar. Recent estimates put perovskite solar panels at $0.10 to $0.20 per watt, while silicon panels remain around $0.30 to $0.50 per watt.[1], [2], [3]

Organic Photovoltaics

Organic photovoltaics (OPVs) are solar cells made from organic materials like plastics and polymers rather than traditional silicon. OPVs are much more flexible, lightweight and thin compared to traditional solar panels. According to the Today’s Homeowner, one of the advantages of OPVs is that the light absorbers come in many colors, not just the black of silicon panels. Additionally, due to their flexibility and light weight, OPVs can be applied on surfaces like windows, cars, clothing, tents and more, opening up many new potential applications.

While OPVs have advantages in flexibility and new applications, they currently lag behind silicon in efficiency and lifespan. The Solar Reviews notes that organic solar cells typically only achieve efficiency around 15% compared to over 20% for the best silicon cells. Additionally, OPV lifespans are estimated at 5-7 years compared to 25+ years for high quality silicon panels. Overall, organic photovoltaics offer unique advantages but have drawbacks in efficiency and lifespan that need to be addressed before mainstream adoption.

Quantum Dot Solar Cells

Quantum dot solar cells are an emerging photovoltaic technology that use quantum dots as the absorbing photovoltaic material instead of traditional semiconductors like silicon. Quantum dots are tiny nanocrystals that can generate more than one electron-hole pair per absorbed photon through a process called multiple exciton generation (MEG). This enables them to potentially achieve higher efficiency than traditional solar cells [1].

One key advantage of quantum dots is their bandgap can be tuned by simply changing the dot size. This allows absorption to be optimized for different parts of the solar spectrum. For example, a blend of different sized quantum dots can be used to maximize absorption across the UV, visible, and IR regions [2]. This tunability makes quantum dot solar cells uniquely suited to extract energy from low light conditions.

Recent research has achieved 15.1% efficiency in flexible perovskite quantum dot solar cells, bringing them closer to commercial viability [3]. While still an emerging technology, quantum dots show great promise to surpass traditional solar cells in the future through their unique tunability and generation capabilities.

Dye-Sensitized Solar Cells

Dye-sensitized solar cells (DSSCs) are thin film solar cells that use a photosensitive dye to absorb sunlight and generate electricity. They have emerged as a promising low-cost alternative to traditional silicon solar cells. DSSCs are composed of three main components – a mesoporous layer of titanium dioxide nanoparticles, a photosensitive dye, and an electrolyte solution.

When sunlight hits the cell, the dye molecules absorb photons and become excited. The excited electrons are injected into the conduction band of the titanium dioxide particles. The electrons then flow through the external circuit to the counter electrode, producing electric current. The dye molecules are regenerated by capturing electrons from the electrolyte solution.

One of the key advantages of DSSCs is their transparency. Since the dye is applied as a thin film to the surface of the nanoparticles, a significant amount of sunlight can pass through the cells. This allows DSSCs to be used in window applications. They can generate electricity from indoor lighting as well. Additionally, the materials and manufacturing processes used are relatively inexpensive compared to silicon cells. However, concerns remain around the stability of the liquid electrolyte over long periods of time [1].

Solar Paint

Solar paint is a spray-on solar cell technology that essentially turns any surface into a solar panel. It is made up of special photovoltaic materials and nanoparticles that can convert sunlight into electricity. When applied to a surface, the solar paint absorbs photons from sunlight and generates an electrical current. Unlike traditional solar panels that need to be mounted on racks and angled toward the sun, solar paint can be applied to nearly any surface like buildings, vehicles, gadgets etc. and generates energy from ambient sunlight without having to track the sun.

One of the biggest advantages of solar paint is its versatility and ease of application. Since it is a liquid spray-on solution, solar paint can coat complex geometries and curved surfaces that regular solar panels cannot. This allows turning unconventional areas like building facades, car roofs, aircraft bodies etc. into solar collectors. It does not require any underlying substrate and can be applied directly on the surface. The application process is simple and fast compared to installing heavy glass solar modules. Solar paint is also semi-transparent allowing light to pass through, making it suitable for application on windows. With further development, it can enable bidirectional energy generation on glass windows.

Some key research references for solar paint are from Solar Action Alliance and Solar Reviews.

Floating Solar Farms

Floating solar farms are an emerging technology where solar panels are installed on floating structures on bodies of water like lakes, reservoirs, ponds, or oceans. According to a study by the Smithsonian [1], floating solar farms could drastically increase renewable power generation and help conserve water in reservoirs.

Some key benefits of floating solar farms include:

  • Cooling effect – Water cools the solar panels, allowing them to operate more efficiently. Studies show floating solar can be up to 15% more efficient than traditional ground-mounted systems [2].
  • Reduced land use – Floating solar does not take up valuable land that could be used for other purposes.
  • Preventing water evaporation – The shade provided by the panels reduces water evaporation from the body of water.

Floating solar farms are still an emerging concept, but initial studies show their potential to produce clean energy while conserving water and land resources.

Space-Based Solar Power

Space-based solar power refers to the concept of collecting solar power in space and transmitting it wirelessly to Earth. This approach seeks to overcome problems with ground-based solar power such as nighttime, weather interference, and the day-night cycle that reduce the amount of sunlight reaching panels.

The basic idea involves placing enormous solar arrays into geostationary orbits over 36,000 km above Earth’s surface. The arrays would collect sunlight 24/7 and convert it into microwaves or laser beams that get transmitted to receiving stations on Earth for conversion into usable electricity.

While space-based solar power has enormous potential, there are still enormous technical challenges to overcome according to this article. The main obstacles include the high costs and infrastructure needed to build, launch and maintain solar arrays and transmitters in space. Safety is also a concern regarding the wireless transmission of intense microwave beams through the atmosphere.

More advances are still needed in efficient wireless power transmission over long distances before space-based solar can become commercially viable. But if these engineering challenges can be solved, space-based solar may one day provide clean, renewable energy that is unaffected by nighttime, weather or seasons.


Based on the research in this article, the most promising new solar technologies seem to be perovskite solar cells, organic photovoltaics, quantum dot solar cells, and dye-sensitized solar cells. Each of these emerging technologies have shown the potential to be more efficient, flexible, and lower cost compared to traditional silicon solar panels.

Of these new solar technologies, perovskite solar cells appear to be the closest to widespread adoption and commercial viability. Recent improvements in stability and manufacturing methods have allowed companies like Oxford PV to bring perovskite solar panels to market in tandem with silicon solar cells for increased efficiency. According to sources like this Nature article, perovskite-silicon tandem panels are projected to achieve over 30% efficiency in real-world conditions.

Organic photovoltaics, quantum dots, and dye-sensitized solar cells remain promising but likely require more research and development before reaching large-scale commercialization. Key benefits of these emerging photovoltaic technologies are their potential for low costs, flexibility, and easy manufacturing. If stability and efficiency can be improved, these ultra-thin, lightweight solar technologies could find new applications like building-integrated solar cells, solar clothing, and other portable uses.

Overall, new solar technologies like perovskites provide an exciting future direction for solar energy. As these innovations continue to mature and reach the market, they are poised to further accelerate the adoption of renewable solar power around the world.


Nelson, Jenny. “The Promise of Perovskite Solar Cells.” IEEE Spectrum, vol. 55, no. 4, Apr. 2018, pp. 26-51.

Green, Martin A. “Commercial Progress and Challenges for Photovoltaics.” Nature Energy, vol. 1, no. 1, Apr. 2016.

Shockley, William, and Hans J. Queisser. “Detailed Balance Limit of Efficiency of p‐n Junction Solar Cells.” Journal of Applied Physics, vol. 32, no. 3, 1961, pp. 510-519.

National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). “Best Research Cell Efficiency Chart.” U.S. Department of Energy, https://www.nrel.gov/pv/cell-efficiency.html. Accessed 4 March 2022.

Kamat, Prashant V. “Quantum Dot Solar Cells. Semiconductor Nanocrystals as Light Harvesters.” The Journal of Physical Chemistry C, vol. 112, no. 48, 2008, pp. 18737-18753.

Yella, Aswani, et al. “Porphyrin-Sensitized Solar Cells with Cobalt (II/III)–Based Redox Electrolyte Exceed 12 Percent Efficiency.” Science, vol. 334, no. 6056, 2011, pp. 629-634.

Peng, Wei, et al. “Space-Based Solar Power Development and Architecture.” Acta Astronautica, vol. 151, 2018, pp. 821-825.

Similar Posts