China’s Solar Dominance Faces New Rival: An Ultrathin Film: As renewable energy becomes a geopolitical tool, Japan looks to recover its technological edge (George Nishiyama, Jan. 11, 2024, WSJ)
In the U.S., the Biden administration is seeking to build a domestic supply chain for solar panels. Japan, also looking for a homegrown solar solution, is focusing on what are called perovskite solar cells that don’t use any silicon.
Invented by Japanese scientist Tsutomu Miyasaka, the cells use minerals forming a crystal structure called perovskite, which can be used in a device to turn the sun’s rays into electricity.
A key element in manufacturing perovskite is iodine. While hardly a resources powerhouse, Japan happens to be the world’s second-largest producer of iodine after Chile, accounting for around a third of global production.
“Look at what China is doing with semiconductors. That’s bullying,” said Miyasaka, referring to Beijing’s export restrictions on the rare elements gallium and germanium used in chips. “With perovskite cells, the components can be made domestically.”