Science 3 min read

New Perovskite Material Rivals Silicon's Efficiency and Cost

Engineers are now working on the ‘stability’ of a new high efficiency, low cost inorganic perovskite material to boost its overall commerciability.

Image courtesy of Shutterstuck

Image courtesy of Shutterstuck

Because of its low cost, stability, and high efficiency, silicon has been the leading industrial material for solar cells for decades now.

In their search for future alternatives to silicon-based solar cells, engineers continue to explore the potentials of other rare materials that could be as efficient and stable as silicon.

Now, a team has found a perovskite material that can compete with silicon in pretty much every department except one:

Stability.

Is This the Perovskite Material To Dethrone Silicon?

There are other alternatives to silicon solar cells, and scientists are busy exploring and finding ways to address their limitations. At the moment, some of these alternatives have already proven themselves as promising technical and commercial prospects.

One of these prospects is perovskite material.

To date, many photovoltaic materials can convert sunlight as efficiently – if not better – as silicon. This is the case with perovskites, which are not only efficient but are also less expensive.

However, aside from low cost and high conversion efficiency, there’s another critical factor in determining a material’s commercial viability: high stability.

The next-generation of solar cells may use perovskite materials. But at the moment, there’s still the problematic property of instability that has to be addressed.

Perovskites are notorious for being unstable. Basically, stability in this context means a long life span.

This was the focus of an international research collaboration between Shanghai Jiao Tong University, the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), and the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST).

The team discovered a stable perovskite material, called CsPbI₃ that demonstrates high power conversion efficiency.

“We are pleased with results suggesting that CsPbI₃ can compete with industry-leading materials,” says Professor Yabing Qi, head of OIST’s Energy Materials and Surface Sciences Unit, who led on the surface science aspect of the study. “From this preliminary result, we will now work on boosting the material’s stability — and commercial prospects.”

In its alpha phase, CsPbI₃ is particularly efficient in absorbing sunlight because its crystal structure is black-colored. But, it rapidly loses its dark color to turn yellowish, affecting its efficiency to absorb sunlight.

The present research focuses on the less explored beta phase of this perovskite material. Unfortunately again, while the CsPbI₃ beta phase is more stable, its power conversion efficiency is relatively low.

This low efficiency is due to cracks that tend to appear in thin-film solar cells. So, the researchers used a choline iodide solution to heal the cracks that naturally emerge and leak electrons into adjacent layers.

“Electrons naturally flow to materials with lower potential energy for electrons, so it is important that the adjacent layers’ energy levels are similar to CsPbI₃,” says Dr. Luis K. Ono, a co-author from Professor Qi’s lab. “This synergy between layers results in fewer electrons being lost — and more electricity being generated.”

The results show that the treatment of the cracks with choline iodide increases the material’s power conversion efficiency by 15% to 18%.

“While that leap may seem small,” say the researchers. “it brings CsPbI₃ into the realm of certified efficiency, the competitive values offered by rival solar materials.”

Read More: Understanding the Science Behind Perovskite Solar Cells

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Zayan Guedim

Trilingual poet, investigative journalist, and novelist. Zed loves tackling the big existential questions and all-things quantum.

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