New solar cells could make panels 4 times cheaper

University of Michigan researchers have made a major breakthrough in solving the problem of rapid degradation of perovskite semiconductors, an advance that could lead to solar cells that are two to four times cheaper than current thin-film solar panels. Perovskite solar cells, while more environmentally friendly than silicon-based solar cells, have a shorter lifespan because they degrade when exposed to heat, moisture and air.

To improve the stability and overall lifetime of perovskite solar cells, researchers have focused on identifying molecules that can prevent rapid degradation. They found that bulky “defect-calming” molecules are particularly effective in improving the stability of perovskite films. When these molecules are added to perovskite crystals, they prevent defects from forming at high temperatures, making the material more durable.

Credit: Zhengtao Hu, Gong Lab, University of Michigan

The researchers created three additives of different shapes and sizes, each containing similar chemical building blocks. By mass, larger molecules have better interactions with perovskite crystals, effectively preventing the formation of defects. However, research also shows that the size and configuration of additives are critical.

Large molecules were found to be the most effective because they not only interact strongly with the perovskite but also force the formation of larger perovskite grains during the fabrication process. Larger grains result in lower density of grain boundaries, which reduces the area where defects can form.

This discovery opens up the possibility of creating more cost-effective and durable solar solutions by combining perovskites with silicon-based semiconductors, potentially exceeding the maximum theoretical efficiency of silicon solar cells; these findings provide the basis for perovskite solar The design of battery additives provides valuable insights, moving away from time-consuming trial and error methods.

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