Graphene-enhanced solar cells
The world is facing an ever-growing energy crisis. Graphene and related materials could help alleviate this problem by becoming part of new technologies to harvest electricity in clean and sustainable ways. The Energy Generation Work Package tackles this challenge with two different approaches, targeting both on- and off-grid applications. Thanks to the collaborations fostered by the Graphene Flagship, we bridge the gaps between research laboratories and industry, ensuring graphene-enabled photovoltaics and electrolysers can reach the market.
This year’s progress
The main on-grid technology we are developing is graphene solar cells. Our work package has developed several solutions for large-area photovoltaics. Graphene-enabled solar panels have demonstrated efficiencies of up to 14.1% and do so more sustainably by eliminating the need for noble metals. Our work with Graphene Flagship industrial partner BeDimensional, Italy, led to the discovery of an innovative encapsulant that increases the stability and efficacy of our devices at a very low price.
We operate the world’s first solar farm infrastructure based on graphene and related materials, located in Crete, Greece. We also developed processes to print graphene-based photovoltaics onto flexible substrates. Our prototypes have passed indoor tests and reached technology readiness level (TRL) 5, with possible deployment for portable electronics and Internet-of-Things devices.
Another approach lays in the design of graphene-based electrolysers for the production of green hydrogen. In this same line, we also develop fuel cells – devices that achieve the opposite reaction, the conversion of hydrogen into water and clean energy. Thanks to graphene and layered materials, we reduced the dependence on critical materials, such as indium and platinum. Hydrogen could store the excess energy of intermittent renewable sources, like solar and wind, then provide it for applications in transportation and industry, among others.
Graphene-enabled electrolysers and fuel-cells show higher activity and durability than most currently available competitors. The Energy Generation Work Package has already exceeded its original expectations, screening different solutions for the hydrogen economy, with some of them deployed into working demonstrators. Graphene Flagship partner Breton, Italy, tested these technologies in pre-industrial batches, hitting TRLs 5-6.
With almost 50 peer-reviewed publications, 14 patents and applications and 10 prototype energy-generation devices, our work package is well on track to deliver on the Graphene Flagship’s original promises. Graphene and green energy make the perfect couple.
Graphene technologies will compete with current alternatives at lower costs. In the case of graphene-enabled solar cells, we still need to work on better processes to scale-up processes efficiently, which will require cheaper raw materials and more economical manufacturing, especially in terms of energy consumption. For electrolysers and fuel-cells, the challenges are greater. So far, the industrial batches of catalysts and coatings still exhibit lower performance than lab-based experiments. We must optimise the scale up procedures to fully integrate graphene into these devices. The collaborations enabled by the Graphene Flagship, including the Spearhead Projects and the FLAG-ERA networks, will accelerate the improvement of graphene-enabled technologies for energy generation.
The Graphene Flagship proudly welcome Bright Day Graphene, our latest Associated Member. Founded in 2017, Bright Day Graphene AB, in Sweden, strives to offer high performing materials without harmful environmental impacts.
Graphene Flagship Spearhead Project GRAPES makes cost-effective and stable photovoltaic panels with graphene and layered materials
By the end of Graphene Flagship Core 3 in 2023, our Spearhead Project GrEEnBat plans to enter the four-year automotive development cycle with their battery module.
Cecilia Mattevi was an invited speaker at Graphene Week 2021, where she showed us her exciting work on the 3D-printing of energy storage devices – with the help of graphene. "We are very interested in layered materials, in particular graphene, for energy applications" she says.
High-tech materials such as graphene, which were once only available in laboratories, are now being used throughout cities in a variety of applications, to enable the effective deployment of smart city infrastructure.