Graphene: the future of photovoltaic energy

Graphene has the potential to contribute significantly to the development of renewables: a workshop organized by Graphene Flagship with IIT and hosted by EGP in Catania looked at applications for photovoltaics and energy storage.

The spectacular growth of renewable energy sources is largely due to technological innovation, particularly in the field of materials science. One of the materials that most characterizes research in our century is graphene: made up of a layer of carbon with a thickness of only one atom, it has applications in an enormous range of fields, from the biomedical sector to aeronautics, from photovoltaic energy to electricity storage systems.

To discuss the uses of graphene in the development of renewable energy, the Energy Innovation Workshopwas organized in Catania on April 29, focusing on opportunities for solar electricity generation and energy storage.

The Energy Innovation Workshop was hosted by Enel Green Power, which organized the event in collaboration with the European Graphene Flagship initiative, created in 2013 to promote international collaborations on graphene. To accelerate the transition from basic research to industrial applications, the Graphene Flagship has activated a number of specific projects (Spearheads) and Grapes (Graphene Integrated Perovskite Silicon Tandem Solar Cells), of which EGP is an industrial partner. The goal is to develop new photovoltaic modules in which the introduction of graphene layers further increases the efficiency of silicon and perovskite-based solar cells.

Innovation that’s always open

The workshop was attended by representatives of research centers (Italian Institute of Technology – IIT, Politecnico di Torino, Hellenic Mediterranean University), private companies (the IIT BeDimensional start-up, dedicated to thin materials, and the multinational Varta) and of course EGP, including Nicola Rossi, EGP Head of Innovation, who opened the workshops.

“New materials will play a decisive role in the energy transition, helping to make renewable technologies more efficient, circular and cost-effective,” said Rossi. “In line with our open innovation approach, we’re very happy to host this day of discussion and debate on graphene at our Innovation Hub in Catania. Through the use of graphene and the Grapes project, we aim, together with our partners, to give a new impetus to technological innovation in the field of photovoltaics, developing increasingly efficient and economical solar cells”.

Workshop Catania
Workshop Catania

Demonstrated potential

A more technical focus was addressed by another EGP representative, Marina Foti, leader of the Grapes project, who commented: “Just two years after the start of the project, we’ve achieved significant results thanks to the collaborative work of all partners. The potential of this technology was demonstrated with 28% conversion efficiency achieved with a perovskite silicon tandem cell, in which a perovskite cell with a small area was mechanically superimposed on an industrial heterojunction silicon cell using graphene-based materials. This result is encouraging, as we face the next challenge, which is scaling up to the industrial level.”

Fabrizio Tubertini, Head of Industrial Liaison at the Italian Institute of Technology and Business Developer for Energy applications of the Graphene Flagship, was also very satisfied: “This is a historical moment that shows how important energy technologies are for our country and for the whole European Union. Initiatives such as the Graphene Flagship are aimed at moving decisively towards the large-scale application of innovations that can make a difference in our future. I’m very happy to have contributed, with the collaboration of Enel Green Power, to the organization of this event, which brings together important Italian and European companies that are already making a real contribution to the modernization of the energy conversion and storage sector.”

“Graphene Flagship’s Spearheads projects are experimental lines of research that combine different skills in order to aim for high technological development and prototyping. The Flagship aims to facilitate cooperation between its partners so that graphene-based technologies can enter the production system rapidly,” commented Kari Hjelt, Head of Innovation at Graphene Flagship. “This event is important for meeting new partners and undertaking new application projects with them”.

At the end of the workshops, the participants had the opportunity to visit our Innovation Hub&Lab in Catania – one of the innovation hubs we’ve created around the world, from the United States to Spain, from Chile to Israel – and the starting point of our technological hub in Catania, an innovative ecosystem including the 3Sun plants, our photovoltaic panel factory which, thanks to European funding for the TANGO (iTaliAN pv Giga factOry) project. will become the largest in Europe.