Article last updated on: Jan 08, 2018 What are perovskite?
Perovskites are a class of materials that share a similar structure, which display a myriad of exciting properties like superconductivity, magnetoresistance and more. These easily synthesized materials are considered the future of solar cells, as their distinctive structure makes them perfect for enabling low-cost, efficient photovoltaics. They are also predicted to play a role in next-gen electric vehicle batteries, sensors, lasers and much more.
How does the PV market look today?
In general, Photovoltaic (PV) technologies can be viewed as divided into two main categories: wafer-based PV (also called 1st generation PVs) and thin-film cell PVs. Traditional crystalline silicon (c-Si) cells (both single crystalline silicon and multi-crystalline silicon) and gallium arsenide (GaAs) cells belong to the wafer-based PVs, with c-Si cells dominating the current PV market (about 90% market share) and GaAs exhibiting the highest efficiency.
Thin-film cells normally absorb light more efficiently than silicon, allowing the use of extremely thin films. Cadmium telluride (CdTe) technology has been successfully commercialized, with more than 20% cell efficiency and 17.5% module efficiency record and such cells currently hold about 5% of the total market. Other commercial thin-film technologies include hydrogenated amorphous silicon (a-Si:H) and copper indium gallium (di)selenide (CIGS) cells, taking approximately 2% market share each today. Copper zinc tin sulphide technology has been under R&D for years and will probably require some time until actual commercialization.
What is a perovskite solar cell?
emerging thin-film PV class is being formed, also called 3rd generation
PVs, which refers to PVs using technologies that have the potential to
overcome current efficiency and performance limits or are based on novel
materials. This 3rd generation of PVs includes DSSC, organic
photovoltaic (OPV), quantum dot (QD) PV and perovskite PV.
A perovskite solar cell is a type of solar cell which includes a perovskite structured compound, most commonly a hybrid organic-inorganic lead or tin halide-based material, as the light-harvesting active layer. Perovskite materials such as methylammonium lead halides are cheap to produce and relatively simple to manufacture. Perovskites possess intrinsic properties like broad absorption spectrum, fast charge separation, long transport distance of electrons and holes, long carrier separation lifetime, and more, that make them very promising materials for solid-state solar cells.
Perovskite solar cells are, without a doubt, the rising star in the field of photovoltaics. They are causing excitement within the solar power industry with their ability to absorb light across almost all visible wavelengths, exceptional power conversion efficiencies already exceeding 20% in the lab, and relative ease of fabrication. Perovskite solar cells still face several challenge, but much work is put into facing them and some companies, are already talking about commercializing them in the near future.
What are the advantages of Perovskite solar cells?
Put simply, perovskite solar cells aim to increase the efficiency and lower the cost of solar energy. Perovskite PVs indeed hold promise for high efficiencies, as well as low potential material & reduced processing costs. A big advantage perovskite PVs have over conventional solar technology is that they can react to various different wavelengths of light, which lets them convert more of the sunlight that reaches them into electricity.
Moreover, they offer flexibility, semi-transparency, tailored form factors, light-weight and more. Naturally, electronics designers and researchers are certain that such characteristics will open up many more applications for solar cells.
What is holding perovskite PVs back?
Despite its great potential, perovskite solar cell technology is still in the early stages of commercialization compared with other mature solar technologies as there are a number of concerns remaining.
One problem is their overall cost (for several reasons, mainly since currently the most common electrode material in perovskite solar cells is gold), and another is that cheaper perovskite solar cells have a short lifespan. Perovskite PVs also deteriorate rapidly in the presence of moisture and the decay products attack metal electrodes. Heavy encapsulation to protect perovskite can add to the cell cost and weight. Scaling up is another issue – reported high efficiency ratings have been achieved using small cells, which is great for lab testing, but too small to be used in an actual solar panel.
A major issue is toxicity – a substance called PbI is one of the breakdown products of perovskite. This is known to be toxic and there are concerns that it may be carcinogenic (although this is still an unproven point). Also, many perovskite cells use lead, a massive pollutant. Researchers are constantly seeking substitutions, and have already made working cells using tin instead. (with efficiency at only 6%, but improvements will surely follow).
While major challenges indeed exist, perovskite solar cells are still touted as the PV technology of the future, and much development work and research are put into making this a reality. Scientists and companies are working towards increasing efficiency and stability, prolonging lifetime and replacing toxic materials with safer ones. Researchers are also looking at the benefits of combining perovskites with other technologies, like silicon for example, to create what is referred to as “tandem cells”.
Commercial activity in the field of perovskite PV
In September 2015, Australia-based organic PV and perovskite solar cell (PSC) developer Dyesol declared a major breakthrough in perovskite stability for solar applications. Dyesol claims to have made a significant breakthrough on small perovskite solar cells, with “meaningful numbers” of 10% efficient strip cells exhibiting less than 10% relative degradation when exposed to continuous light soaking for over 1000 hours. Dyesol was also awarded a $0.5 million grant from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) to commercialize an innovative, very high efficiency perovskite solar cell.
Also in 2015, Saule Technologies signed an investment deal with Hideo Sawada, a Japanese investment company. Saule aims to combine perovskite solar cells with other currently available products, and this investment agreement came only a year after the company was launched.
Latest Perovskite Solar news
Scientific Video Protocols (SciVPro) is a no-fee, open access peer-reviewed video platform that publishes scientifically sound research from all areas of natural science and technology. The open availability of the video protocol on Youtube facilitates the dissemination of experimental details among the scientific community and the public at large, while promoting authors’ research activities and easing reproducibility of results.
SciVPro released a fascinating interview with the renowned Prof. Henry J. Snaith, Professor of Physics in the Clarendon Laboratory at the University of Oxford and Fellow of the Royal Society. He has pioneered the field of perovskite solar cells and published more than 300 papers. He is the founder and Chief Scientist Officer of Oxford Photovoltaics, which holds the largest perovskite patent portfolio worldwide and focuses on developing and commercializing perovskite PV technology.Read the full story Posted: Nov 14, 2018
Scientists at the Martin Luther University of Halle Wittenberg have investigated a new process for perovskite solar cell production, which they say could allow for creation of perovskite thin film layers with better long-term stability than others have achieved.
The process, co-evaporation, is already widely used in other industries. It consists of heating precursor materials in a vacuum, until they evaporate, and then growing a layer of crystals onto a colder glass substrate.Read the full story Posted: Nov 13, 2018
Greatcell Solar has provided an update on matters relating to its current financial position.
Greatcell reports that significant progress has been achieved in recent weeks; An agreement has been reached with the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) on variations to a previously signed funding agreement, which will result in a payment of $425,000 AUD (around $307,200 USD) to Greatcell.Read the full story Posted: Nov 11, 2018
An international team of researchers led by the U.S. Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory (that also included, among others, researchers from NIST, the University of Bath, Kings College London and Yonsei University) has gained new understanding of the movement of atoms in perovskite materials and how it affects the functioning of those materials. The results could explain why perovskite solar cells are so efficient and aid the quest to design hot-carrier solar cells, a theorized technology that would almost double the efficiency limits of conventional solar cells by converting more sunlight into usable electrical energy.
Common materials that make up conventional solar cells display a nearly rigid arrangement of atoms with little movement. In hybrid perovskites, however, the arrangements are more flexible and atoms move around more freely, an effect that impacts the performance of the solar cells but has been difficult to measure.Read the full story Posted: Nov 08, 2018
Some of the key challenges for hybrid organic-inorganic perovskite solar cells are their limited stability, scalability, and molecular level engineering. Researchers at the Laboratory of Photonics and Interfaces (LPI) and Laboratory of Magnetic Resonance (LMR) at EPFL show how molecular engineering of multifunctional molecular modulators (MMMs) and using solid-state nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) to investigate their role in double-cation pure-iodide perovskites can lead to stable, scalable, and efficient perovskite solar cells.
The objective of the team lead by Professor Grätzel (LPI), in collaboration with the group of Professor Lyndon Emsley (LMR) was to tackle the above-mentioned challenges through rational molecular design in conjunction with solid-state NMR, as a unique technique for probing interactions within the perovskite material at the atomic level. The team designed a series of organic molecules equipped with specific functions that act as molecular modulators (MMs), which interact with the perovskite surface through noncovalent interactions, such as hydrogen bonding or metal coordination. While hydrogen bonding can affect the electronic quality of the material, coordination to the metal cation sites could ensure suppression of some of the structural defects, such as under-coordinated metal ions.