Wednesday, May 4, 2022

The breakthrough of the “miracle material” could revolutionize solar energy

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Scientists have discovered a way to manufacture highly efficient commercial-scale solar cells from the “miracle material” perovskite.

A team from City University of Hong Kong (CityU) and Imperial College London made the discovery in a breakthrough that could have major implications for renewable energy generation and the achievement of zero-carbon goals.

Perovskite has been hailed for its remarkable properties compared to traditional silicon solar cells, but until now they have been too unstable to be suitable for commercial use.

The next-generation cells are expected to cost less, have much higher power conversion efficiencies, and be lightweight and flexible – opening up new applications such as coating glass windows with thin layers of solar panels.

Zeev Valy Vardeny, a Distinguished Professor of Physics at the University of Utah, described the unique properties of perovskite as “incredible, a miracle material” in 2017. At the time, commercialization of the technology was thought to be at least a decade away, but this discovery could boost that significantly.

The chemists were able to overcome the difficult properties of perovskite by using a metal-containing material called ferrocene, which they added as an interface between the light-absorbing layer of the solar cell and the electron-transporting layer.

“The unique properties of ferrocenes can help overcome the problems with perovskite solar cells,” said Professor Nicholas Long of Imperial College’s Department of Chemistry.

Using this groundbreaking technique, the scientists were the first team to create a solar cell capable of performing similarly to silicon cells while remaining stable.

Tests of the new solar cells showed that they can operate for more than 1,500 hours under continuous lighting while maintaining 98 percent of their original efficiency.

“The most important part of this work is that we have successfully fabricated highly efficient perovskite solar cells while offering promising stability,” said Dr. Zhu Zonglong, assistant professor at CityU’s Department of Chemistry.

“The reliable results mean that commercialization of perovskites is on the way. Our goal is to increase the production of perovskite solar cells with this novel molecule and this simple method, thereby contributing to the global sustainability goal of zero carbon.”

The researchers patented the design, which was detailed in an article published in the journal Science on Thursday.

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