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Perovskites to replace silicon-based solar cells

Posted: 06 May 2015     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Perovskite  silicon-based solar cells  LEDs 

Researchers from the University of Washington and University of Oxford have proven that perovskite materials, generally believed to have uniform composition, actually contain flaws that can be engineered to improve solar devices.

Perovskite materials, which have superefficient crystal structures, are proving attractive because they can be processed inexpensively and can be used in applications ranging from solar cells to light-emitting diodes (LEDs).

Perovskites are the fastest-growing class of photovoltaic material over the past four years, said lead author Dane deQuilettes, a UW doctoral student working with David Ginger, professor of chemistry and associate director of the UWs Clean Energy Institute. In that short amount of time, the ability of these materials to convert sunlight directly into electricity is approaching that of today's silicon-based solar cells, rivaling technology that took 50 years to develop. But we also suspect there is room for improvement.


The research team, which reported the study online in the journal Science, used high-powered imaging techniques to find defects in the perovskite films that limit the movement of charges and, therefore, limit the efficiency of the devices. Perovskite solar cells have so far achieved efficiencies of roughly 20 per cent, compared to about 25 per cent for silicon-based solar cells.

In a collaboration made possible by the Clean Energy Institute, the team used a technique called confocal optical microscopy, which is more often used in biology, and applied it to semiconductor technology. The researchers used fluorescent images and correlated them with electron microscopy images to find 'dark' or poorly performing regions of the perovskite material at intersections of the crystals. In addition, they discovered that they could 'turn on' some of the dark areas by using a simple chemical treatment.

The images offered several surprises but also will lead to accelerated improvements in the materials uniformity, stability and efficiency, according to corresponding author Ginger, the Alvin L. and Verla R. Kwiram Endowed Professor of Chemistry and Washington Research Foundation Distinguished Scholar.

Surprisingly, this result shows that even what are being called good, or highly-efficient perovskite films today still are bad compared to what they could be. This provides a clear target for future researchers seeking to improve and grow the materials, said Ginger.

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