A Chinese startup this month became the first in the world to mass-produce large, bendable perovskite solar panels, based on technology initially developed by researchers in Japan.
DaZheng (Jiangsu) Micro-Nano Technologies invested RMB 80 million (USD 11.8 million) to build a production line with an annual capacity of 10 megawatts in Jiangsu Province. The 40 cm by 60 cm panels will be cut into smaller pieces and shipped to smartphone and tablet makers in China.
DaZheng will invest RMB 200 million in 2023 to expand its annual production capacity to 100 MW, chief technology officer Li Xin told Nikkei.
Perovskite solar cells were pioneered in 2009 by Toin University of Yokohama engineering professor Tsutomu Miyasaka and his team. Although these lightweight cells have a power conversion efficiency of around 10%—about half that of silicon cells—they can be incorporated into windows, walls and, more.
Smaller perovskite cells have been mass-produced before, but DaZheng is the first to do so for large panels. While these cells currently cost three times as much to make as conventional silicon cells, this could potentially be brought down to half at a higher scale.
The technology is seen as a candidate to win a Nobel Prize. There is hope that the cells can eventually be applied by a printer, or be painted onto entire cars.
The global market for perovskite solar cells is projected to expand to over USD 2 billion by 2027 with annual growth averaging about 29% starting in 2022, according to Indian research company Astute Analytica.
Japanese companies like Kyocera and Sharp were once leading players in solar cells but downsized operations over the years as price competition ate into profits. Chinese and South Korean players now control much of the market. Japanese companies have little capacity to make new investments, allowing China to take the lead in large-scale perovskite panels.
DaZheng’s Li studied under Miyasaka and continued his research after returning to China. Miyasaka also provided development support.
This article first appeared on Nikkei Asia. It has been republished here as part of 36Kr’s ongoing partnership with Nikkei.