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Photovoltaic systems are an effective solution to the growing energy demand of emerging economies and global greenhouse gas related issues.
Photovoltaic (PV) devices based on crystalline silicon (c-Si) have met the low-cost manufacturing standards of clean energy conversion due to the abundant raw materials and no obvious environmental health or safety issues. However, perovskite solar cells (PSC) are currently considered a rising star in the photovoltaic industry due to their potential in improving efficiency and reducing solar energy costs.
PSC is a solar cell made of perovskite material. The most common perovskite materials used in the manufacture of solar PSCs are mixed organic-inorganic lead (Pb) or tin halide-based perovskite materials.
The power conversion efficiency (PCE) of PSCs has doubled in a short period of time. Since 2012, a detailed study of PSCs has been carried out.
According to laboratory calculations, the PCE of photovoltaic devices using PSC has increased from 3.8% in 2009 to 25.2% in 2020, exceeding the highest efficiency achieved by traditional monocrystalline or polycrystalline silicon cells.
PSC is currently the fastest growing solar cell technology in the photovoltaic industry. The idea is to improve related photovoltaic parameters that affect PCE, such as short circuit current (Jsc), open circuit potential (Voc) and fill factor (FF).
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So far, no obvious defects have been observed in any of the above-mentioned parameters of the PSC, which explains the high efficiency achieved by the PSC.
The band gap value is one of the important parameters for evaluating the overall performance of solar cells, and should be close to the Shockley-Quisser (SQ) limit. The perovskite band gap is closer to the SQ limit.
The perovskite structure with lead halide bonds has unique characteristics, such as direct band gaps with large thin-layer absorption, low recombination loss, and ultra-high carrier lifetime.
Perovskite materials have the inherent characteristics of wide absorption spectrum, fast charge separation, long electron and hole transport distance, and long carrier separation life. These characteristics make it a particularly exciting material for solid-state solar cells.
The characteristics that make perovskite materials a better candidate for solar cell technology are as follows:
The overall cost of PSC manufacturing is higher, and cheaper perovskite solar cells have a shorter lifespan. The presence of moisture can significantly destroy the PSC. The large amount of packaging required to protect the perovskite absorber increases the cost and weight of the battery. According to reports, other factors affecting PSC instability are thermal stress, heating under applied voltage, light influence (ultraviolet and visible light) and mechanical brittleness.
Very high PCE has been achieved using small cells, which is very suitable for laboratory testing. However, for commercial applications, such a small size is not enough. Therefore, the scale factor is a shortcoming to be solved.
Since the unstable current vs. voltage (IV) curve of a perovskite solar cell shows hysteresis behavior, the current-voltage sweep will produce ambiguous efficiency values. More research is needed to fully understand this aspect of PSC.
For some PSCs, PbI is one of the decomposition products. This is a toxic compound and may cause cancer. Pb in many variants of PSC is a huge pollutant. Rigorous research has been conducted on alternatives, and tin-based PSCs have been introduced. However, the PCE of these tin PSCs needs to be improved.
A team from the Iowa State University Microelectronics Research Center replaced the cations in the PSC variant with inorganic materials such as cesium. They also replaced the iodine (I) in the perovskite absorbing material with bromine (Br) to make the cells sensitive to moisture. However, it also reduces the overall efficiency .
Another team from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) devised a method to isolate the lead used to make lead-based perovskite solar cells to reduce possible harmful leakage. They achieved this goal by using lead absorbing films on the back and front of the solar cell, which can isolate about 96% of lead leakage in the case of severe damage to the solar cell in a laboratory environment. The team also reported that the long-term operational stability of solar cells is not affected by the lead absorber layer .
An international team of scientists led by Professor Qi Yabing from the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology in Japan and collaborators in China, France and the United States have discovered an inorganic perovskite material (CsPbI3) that can replace silicon in solar cell manufacturing in terms of efficiency.
Researchers have found that CsPbI3 is usually studied in its alpha phase, its crystal structure causes black, and it is particularly good at absorbing sunlight. However, it is unstable, and the structure quickly degrades into a form that is less efficient in absorbing sunlight.
The researchers instead studied the beta phase of this material, which is more stable but less efficient in converting sunlight into electricity. Cracks often found in thin-film solar cells are the reason for the low absorption efficiency. Repairing these cracks led to an increase in conversion efficiency, from 15% to 18%. The range is very small, almost within the range of the certification efficiency value .
There are also detailed studies studying the benefits of combining perovskite with other technologies (such as c-Si), which can create "tandem batteries." In such a structure, the advantages of the two technologies are used to develop batteries with better performance .
During PSC research, the main driving factor for rapid improvement of device performance was innovation in materials or processing technology.
The main points to explore are:
These aspects are essential to thoroughly understand how PSC works and to replace silicon-based solar cells in full commercialization.
Disclaimer: The views expressed here are those of the author in a personal capacity, and do not necessarily represent the views of the owner and operator of this website AZoM.com Limited T/A AZoNetwork. This disclaimer forms part of the terms and conditions of use of this website.
Ankita Biswas is studying the final stage of a master's degree in materials science and simulation at the Interdisciplinary Center for Advanced Materials Simulation at Ruhr University Bochum, Germany. Ankita received a Bachelor of Ceramic Engineering from West Bengal University of Technology, Kolkata, India.
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