Scientists unveil record-setting perovskite solar cell

Source: By David Iaconangelo, E&E News reporter • Posted: Tuesday, May 26, 2020

An advanced solar cell developed by engineers from three countries has cleared an international performance standard for the first time, strengthening its case as the industry’s future technology of choice.

The perovskite cell uses a kind of glass casing to keep out moisture and prevent the escape of gases, which typically cause the cell to deteriorate, according to a study in Science last week.

Thinner and more pliable than silicon photovoltaics — the type of solar panel already in widespread use — perovskites are a research focus of federal scientists who say they could remake where and how solar power is generated. Rather than mounting a hulking panel unit onto rooftops or farmlands, perovskites could be ingrained into buildings’ windows or sprayed onto their walls. They also may be able to convert more energy than traditional solar panels.

The glass encasing helped the cell withstand prolonged exposure to damp heat and freezing temperatures without an appreciable decline in performance, meeting the bar set by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) for silicon’s durability, said the study’s authors.

That demonstrated durability under extreme weather conditions, they said, proves that perovskites can get over “a key challenge” to their commercial viability.

“Cells need to be durable for market uptake,” said Anita Ho-Baillie, chair of nanoscience at the University of Sydney’s School of Physics, in a statement.

“That’s what is so exciting about our research,” Ho-Baillie added. “We have shown that we can drastically improve their thermal stability.”

Many within the industry believe the cells could also be manufactured cheaply, if doubts about their durability can be quelled.

Federal researchers and startups are starting to clear the way for the introduction of perovskites to market. A consortium announced in late April by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), in tandem with three universities and six prospective manufacturers, will develop standard criteria for quality control and oversee future research.

Joe Berry, NREL’s lead for perovskites and director of the consortium, cautioned that the IEC’s durability tests, used as the standard for the Sciencestudy, were fashioned from historical data about weaknesses in silicon cells. No equivalents exist yet for perovskites, he noted.

But he added that the findings were “an additional confirmation that the trajectory to market looks good.”

“I think there are realistic paths to market in the next three to five years. One of these companies, or hopefully more, will come out with compelling products within that time frame,” said Berry.