Researchers at Northwestern University have once again raised the bar for perovskite solar cells with a new development that has increased the efficiency of this emerging technology to record levels.
The results, published in the journal Science This Friday, November 17, we describe a dual-molecule solution to overcome efficiency losses in converting sunlight into energy.
The team, led by Northwestern University professor Ted Sargent, addressed surface recombination, a process in which electrons are lost when trapped by defects on the surface, and recombination at the interface between layers.
By incorporating a first molecule to manage surface recombination and a second molecule to stop recombination at the interface, the efficiency certified by the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) reached 25.1%, surpassing previous approaches that reached only 24 .09%.
Professor Ted Sargent, co-executive director of the Paula M. Trienens Institute for Sustainability and Energy, highlighted the rapid evolution of perovskite technology and the shift in focus from research and development to interfaces. “This is the critical point to further improve efficiency and stability, bringing us closer to this promising path towards increasingly efficient solar harvesting,” he said.
Although perovskite solar cells have historically faced stability challenges, recent advances have brought their efficiency closer to that achieved by silicon. In the current study, the team focused not on increasing light absorption, but on retaining and maintaining the generated electrons to increase efficiency.
Cheng Liu, lead author of the study and a postdoctoral student in Sargent’s lab, explained the complexity of recombination at the interface and the team’s innovative approach. Additionally, the study builds on previous research by Sargent’s group, which identified an effective molecule, PDAI2, for addressing recombination at the interface.
The team also explored the possibility of combining this molecule with sulfur, replacing carbon groups to cover missing atoms and suppress recombination. The group’s previous work developed a coating for the substrate beneath the perovskite layer, allowing the cell to operate at higher temperatures for longer periods.
While the team hopes the findings will encourage the scientific community to keep moving forward, they are also committed to future research. Liu highlighted the need for a flexible strategy to solve complex interface problems, highlighting the importance of using multiple molecules to address various types of recombination and defects at the interface.
The perovskite solar cell
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