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The wonder material, perovskite, could revolutionise solar power as scientists set to build upon efficiency record

The wonder material, perovskite, could revolutionise solar power as scientists set to build upon efficiency record

Illustration of tandem silicone and perovskite. Graph credit: Eike Köhnen / HZB.

By Anders Lorenzen 

The rapidly expanding solar PV technology has experienced significant technological advances in recent years , as scientists have experimented with new and innovative materials. It is believed solar cells built from silicone, the material that most of the world’s solar panels consist of, has reached the peak of what is possible to achieve in efficiency. 

Perovskite is one of the most exciting materials that scientists are now researching. Perovskite-based solar cells have gained attention due to their high conversion efficiency and low-cost production processes. Researchers are continually improving the stability, scalability, and durability of these cells, making them a promising alternative to traditional silicon-based PV cells.

Getting the combination right

But the picture is a bit more complex than just swapping silicone for perovskite. By adding a layer of perovskite – another semiconductor – on top of the silicon layer, it meant that in July scientists achieved a significant efficiency record pushing the boundaries past 30% of efficiency. Perovskite captures blue light from the visible spectrum, while silicon captures red light, boosting the total light captured overall. With more energy absorbed per cell, the cost of solar electricity could be reduced significantly.

The groundbreaking efficiency record can be attributed to several factors, that have driven continuous innovation in perovskite solar cell technology. Research efforts have focused on enhancing the light-absorbing properties of perovskite materials by fine-tuning their composition, crystal structure, and surface morphology. This meticulous optimisation has resulted in improved photon capture and reduced energy losses within the cell.

Several factors

In addition to material advancements, researchers have refined the design and architecture of the panels by incorporating novel engineering strategies. These include the development of efficient charge transport layers, improved interfacial contact, and enhanced light management techniques. Such integration has enabled better extraction of charges, reduced recombination, and improved overall device performance.

In addition to this, advancements in deposition techniques have played a crucial role in achieving the efficiency record. Large-scale manufacturing methods, such as roll-to-roll printing and vapour deposition, have greatly improved the scalability and reproducibility of perovskite solar cells. Additionally, the optimization of interface engineering and encapsulation strategies has extended device lifetimes, and has enhanced stability and reduced performance degradation.

With the new efficiency record, the next question is how quickly could they become available on the market.  Along with the huge promise in increased efficiency, there are still some hurdles when it comes to durability in matching the 25 years for silicon solar cells. 

Additionally, efforts to reduce material costs, enhance large-scale manufacturing, and optimize recycling and disposal processes are essential for achieving widespread commercial adoption.  But there’s a high level of confidence that these hurdles could be overcome, and we could well see commercialisation within five years. 

We can expect that scientists will continue to optimise perovskite materials, to design architectures, and manufacturing processes. This in order to fulfil the excitement and buzz there is about perovskite solar cells for their ability to revolutionise solar PV technology. 

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