The perovskite solar cell is the emerging technology of the photovoltaic industry for the year 2020. With a promise of cleaner energy, cleaner than what is already being offered by conventional solar energy conversion methods, it has quickly piqued the interest of the academe, engineering, and the scientific community.
What is perovskite? What are perovskite solar cells? Let’s answer the frequently asked questions about this technology one by one.
What is perovskite?
The word perovskite refers to a mineral first found in the Ural Mountains. It was named after the founder of the Russian Geographical Society, Lev Perovski. In the context of photovoltaics, the word now also refers to a class of materials that follow the similar crystal structure as this mineral.
The image above depicts a perovskite structure. A wide combination of elements can be used in order to achieve this structure. With this, the applications of this material is diverse. Right now these crystals can be found in ultrasound devices, memory chips, and recently, solar cells.
How is perovskite used in solar energy/solar power systems?
Solar cells need semiconductors to work. The sun excites the electrons in the semiconductor material which flows into electrodes and produces electricity. Perovskite can take the semiconductor role in solar cells.
The production of perovskite cells involves fairly simple processes. The ability to create perovskite crystal structures provides flexibility. They can be fine-tuned to match the sun’s spectrum, amplifying the efficiency of energy conversion.
What makes perovskite better than traditional solar energy materials?
Right now, silicon is the primary material used as a semiconductor in solar cells. The problem with silicon is that the process of using it in solar cells is expensive because of the multiple steps involved.
The production of perovskite solar cells costs way less than using silicon. The energy needed to be used up is also significantly less.
Another alternative solar cell production method is using a tandem of silicon and perovskite. This is also another way to make the production of solar cells cheaper and more efficient energy-wise.
What is the future of perovskite solar cells?
Perovskites do have an issue: instability. They are shown to be degradable by heat, light, water, and oxygen. Methods to improve perovskite stability are currently being worked on.
Though used in little amounts, some perovskite cells do use lead. There are fears that these lead compounds can eventually leach out into the environment. There are tin-based perovskite cells, however, these are less power-efficient. The exploration of materials that can be used in place of lead is also a huge area of study in the field at present.
As things stand, pure perovskite solar cells cannot be commercialised if these obstacles will not be resolved. According to Ossila, perovskite cells need to attain three attributes in order to be marketable:
- High efficiency
- Long lifetimes
- Low manufacturing costs
It is successful in attaining the last one. Ossila also said that perovskites have a huge potential in attaining the other two in the future.
Clean Energy Institute (2020, March 10). Perovskites for Clean Energy. Retrieved March 16, 2020 from https://www.cei.washington.edu/education/science-of-solar/perovskite-solar-cell/
Ossila (2019, January 10). Perovskites and Perovskite Solar Cells: An Introduction. Retrieved March 16, 2020 from https://www.ossila.com/pages/perovskites-and-perovskite-solar-cells-an-introduction