A new material developed by researchers at Imperial College London (ICL) could dramatically reduce the cost of perovskite solar cells.
“The sun is the most abundant renewable energy source on the planet. Our research proposes to harness this potential by developing solar cells. This can be achieved, for example, by creating new cells that use polymers of small dye molecules to absorb light and convert it into electricity, or by designing systems that mimic photosynthesis, through our multidisciplinary ‘leaves artificial,'” the researchers write.
Traditional solar cells are made from silicon, which has good efficiency and stability, but is relatively expensive to manufacture and can only be produced in rigid panels.
Perovskite solar cells are an alternative that can be printed from inks, making them low-cost, high-efficiency, thin, light and flexible. However, they have fallen behind silicon solar cells in efficiency and are prone to breaking down under normal environmental conditions. New metal-containing materials called ferrocenes could help alleviate many of these problems.
Professor Nicholas Long, co-author of the study, said: “Silicon cells are efficient but expensive and we urgently need new solar power devices to accelerate the transition to renewable energy. Stable and efficient perovskite cells could enable solar energy to be used in more applications, from powering developing countries to charging a new generation of portable devices.”
Perovskite forms the “light-harvesting” layer of solar cell devices, but it is less efficient at converting solar energy into electricity than silicon-based solar cells, mainly because electrons are less “mobile,” that is, they have less ability to pass from the collecting layer to the electricity conversion layers.
Ferrocenes are compounds whose center is iron, surrounded by rings of carbon. This structure allows electrons to move more easily from the perovskite layer to the next ones, which improves the efficiency of the conversion of solar energy into electricity.
In tests conducted by the researchers, it was shown that the efficiency of perovskite devices with an added ferrocene layer can reach 25%, approaching the efficiency of traditional silicon cells.
The efficiency and stability achieved by adding a ferrocene layer bring these perovskite devices closer to current international standards for traditional silicon cells.
Imperial College London (ICL) highlights that his team is the first to raise the inverted perovskite solar cell to a record efficiency of 25%. ICL has patented the design and hopes to obtain a license to commercialize perovskite devices. In the meantime, they are experimenting with different ferrocene designs to further improve the performance and stability of the devices.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.