Ever heard of a perovskite solar cell? Probably not. But you have now, and very likely will be hearing more and more about them in the coming years, based on the very encouraging findings of a recent analysis by the Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).
While solar cells based on the new material — which is based on a mineral first discovered in the Ural Mountains in 1839 — have been increasing in efficiency “faster than almost anything researchers have seen before” (a four-fold increase in four years), the real advantage of the material, as the new research has revealed, is in its potential to reduce the cost of high-efficiency cells.
The new, in-depth analysis of the semiconducting, cube-like mineral by researchers at NREL utilized the lab’s unique testing capabilities and broad spectrum of expertise to characterize its potential with regard to solar energy.
The press release from the DOE/NREL provides more:
NREL Research Fellow David Ginley, who is a world-renowned materials scientist and winner of several R&D 100 Awards, said what makes perovskite device structures so remarkable is that when processed in a liquid solution, they have unusual abilities to diffuse photons a long distance through the cell. That makes it far less likely that the electrons will recombine with their hole pairs and be lost to useful electricity. And that indicates a potential for low-cost, high-efficiency devices.
NREL Senior Scientist Daniel Friedman notes that the light-absorbing perovskite cells have “a diffusion length 10 times longer than their absorption length,” not only an unusual phenomenon, but a very useful one, too.
Importantly, the perovskite-inspired material used in the new solar cells is quite easy to fabricate — being easily manufactured via a printing process relying on a liquid precursor. It’s this ease of fabrication that makes the material so appealing — and potentially cheap.
Another interesting quality to note is that the perovskite material can be easily tuned to capture different portions of the light spectrum — a trait that would allow it to be (relatively) easily used in super-high-efficiency multi-junction solar cells, possibly helping to reduce the costs of such high-efficiency — but quite expensive — multi-junction cells.
Summing up what much of the buzz is about, NREL Senior Scientist Joey Luther, concluded: “Perovskite shows promise to be a whole lot easier to make compared to most other solar cells. It doesn’t require high-temperature processing. You can just dip glass into two chemicals and get the material to form on it.”
Certainly does sound promising. We’ll keep you posted on further developments relating to perovskite.
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