The most affordable, efficient way to harness the cleanest, most abundant renewable energy source in the world is one step closer to reality. The Toledo university made a breakthrough in the solar power chemical formula and process to make the new material.
Working in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Lab and the University of Colorado, Dr. Yanfa Yan, UToledo professor of physics,
Envisions the ultra-high efficiency material called a tandem perovskite solar cell will be ready to debut in full-sized solar panels in the consumer market in the near future.
Perovskites, compound materials with a special crystal structure formed through chemistry, would replace silicon, which for now remains the solar-cell material of choice for converting the sun’s light into electrical energy.
Efforts have currently brought the efficiency of the new solar cell to about 23 percent. In comparison, silicon solar panels on the market today have around an 18 percent efficiency rating.
Scientists used a chemical compound called guanidinium thiocyanate to dramatically improve the structural and optoelectronic properties of the lead-tin mixed perovskite films.
“This is the material we’ve been waiting for for a long time,” Yan said. “The solar industry is watching and waiting. Some have already started investing in this technology.”
Tandem solar cells with two layers of perovskites deliver high power conversion efficiency and have the potential to bring down production costs of solar panels, which is an important advance in photovoltaics.
“The material cost is low and the fabrication cost is low, but the lifetime of the material is still an unknown,” Song said. “We need to continue to increase efficiency and stability.”
“Also, lead is considered a toxic substance,” Yan said. “I am determined to work with the solar industry to ensure solar panels made of this material can be recycled so they don’t cause harm to the environment.”