According to professor Ken Durose, Director of the Durham Centre for Renewable Energy, "One of the main issues in solar energy is the cost of materials and we recognise that the cost of solar cells is slowing down their uptake. If solar panels were cheap enough so you could buy a system off the shelf that provided even a fraction of your power needs you would do it, but that product isn't there at the moment."
That makes perfect sense, right? If you could add solar power to your home or car without significant expense as a way to save on your energy bills, you would. But, as the professor says, solar power is still expensive. Sure, they will in fact pay for themselves over time, but I'm sure you are aware that the generation we live in thrives on instant gratification. So, cheaper solar cells is what Durham University is working on. They want to make the cells thinner and stop using the thick silicon process which includes indium, a rare and expensive metal. In an effort to achieve this goal, the University is using high powered electron microscopes which allow researchers "to see the effects that currently limit the performance of solar cells." The microscopes could "[open] up tremendous opportunities in research," according to Durose.
It's almost hard to believe how many projects there are at this time attempting to lower the cost and increase the efficiency of solar power. We are expecting big things from our friend the sun!
[Source: The Durham Centre for Renewable Energy]