Advanced solar panels still need to pass the test of time

Other tests carried out under more intense conditions gave less positive results, with an academic study finding that perovskite cells in hot and humid Saudi Arabia lost 20% of their efficiency after a year of operation.

These results relate to one year of testing. How can we predict what will happen in 30 years?

Since we don't have years to test every new material scientists dream up, researchers often subject them to particularly grueling conditions in the lab, raising the temperature and shining bright lights on the panels to see how quickly they will deteriorate.

This type of testing is standard for silicon solar panels, which today represent more than 90% of the commercial solar market. But researchers are still working to determine how well the correlations with known tests will transfer to new materials like perovskites.

One problem is that light, humidity, and heat all contribute to the rapid degradation of perovskites. But it's not clear exactly which factor, or combination of them, would be best applied in the lab to measure how a solar panel behaves in the real world.

A study, published last year in Nature, suggested that a combination of high temperature and illumination would be the key to accelerated testing that reliably predicted real-world performance. Researchers found that high-temperature tests lasting a few hundred hours (a few weeks) translated well into nearly six months of performance in outdoor testing.

The companies say they will commercialize new solar materials as early as this year. Soon we will begin to really see how well these tests predict the ability of new technologies to withstand the tough work a commercial solar panel must do. I know I'll watch.

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