In the realm of renewable energy research, China has emerged as a formidable force in the field of perovskite solar cells, a promising alternative to traditional solar technology that holds the potential to revolutionize the way we harness energy from the sun. With a remarkable surge in international academic papers published on perovskite cells since 2019, China’s commitment to innovation and research is propelling it to the forefront of the clean energy race.
According to a comprehensive study conducted by Tokyo-based data analysis provider Fronteo, China has produced over 5,500 international academic papers on perovskite cells since 2019, representing a staggering 30% of the total output among the top 10 countries. This statistic surpasses the United States, which holds the second spot with approximately 3,400 papers, and South Korea in third place with around 1,460 papers. Meanwhile, Japan has contributed around 820 papers to this field’s growing body of research.
Perovskite solar cells offer a novel approach to renewable energy generation. These thin-film cells, notably thinner and lighter than traditional silicon solar panels, possess an inherent flexibility that makes them easily adaptable for installation on various surfaces, including exterior walls and the tops of electric vehicles. First developed by a Japanese-led team in 2009, perovskite cells have garnered significant attention, constituting approximately 80% of all solar cell research conducted outside of Japan.
Fronteo’s analysis, which encompassed a review of more than 38,000 papers on perovskite cells published between 2010 and March 2022, shed light on the trajectory of research progress in this field. The data demonstrated a keen focus on improving the durability of perovskite cells, exploring diverse materials, and devising technical solutions to expedite commercialization efforts.
Given its preexisting dominance in mainstream solar panel production, China’s ascendancy as a research powerhouse in perovskite solar cells is of particular significance. While China leads the world in manufacturing conventional solar panels, Japan is making a determined effort to establish domestic perovskite cell production capabilities, reducing reliance on Chinese imports. Japanese plastics manufacturer Sekisui Chemical has outlined plans to commence mass production of perovskite solar cells by 2030, aiming to catch up with its Chinese counterparts.
China’s ascent to the top of perovskite research began in 2014 when it overtook the United States in terms of published papers on the topic. This achievement underscores China’s sustained investment in scientific exploration and innovation, even amidst the backdrop of heightened geopolitical tensions surrounding emerging technologies with potential dual-use applications.
The implications of China’s dominance in perovskite research are not without their challenges. As the United States grapples with concerns over technology leaks and security risks, the risk of imposing sanctions on companies collaborating with Chinese partners could inadvertently hinder progress in this innovative field. Notably, 14% of studies conducted since 2019 were co-authored by scientists affiliated with Chinese organizations on the U.S. entity list in collaboration with researchers from Japan, the U.S., and other countries.
A subset of these co-authors is associated with esteemed higher education institutions referred to as the “Seven Sons of National Defense.” These universities, including the Beijing Institute of Technology, have long been engaged in research and development activities in conjunction with the People’s Liberation Army, contributing significantly to China’s defense industry. Experts advocate for rigorous background checks and scrutiny of collaborators’ research histories to mitigate potential technology leakage risks as a precautionary measure.
Fronteo’s analysis also extended to patent applications as an indicator of research commercialization progress. The United States held a prominent position in this arena, filing 275 patent applications since 2019, followed by Japan with 186. Notably, China’s swift trajectory is apparent here as well, with a tenfold increase in patent applications since 2019. While China had merely six applications in or before 2018, its accelerated growth aligns with the global trend toward embracing perovskite solar cell technology.
China’s ascendance as a research powerhouse in the realm of perovskite solar cells is reshaping the landscape of renewable energy innovation. With a substantial body of academic papers and a growing emphasis on patent applications, China’s commitment to this revolutionary technology is undeniable. As nations strive to balance the pursuit of clean energy with security concerns, the future of perovskite solar cells holds promise for a brighter and more sustainable tomorrow.
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