This Solar Cell Just Set an Astounding Efficiency Record
From popular mechanics
Scientists have set a new efficiency record for perovskite silicon solar cells.
You have almost reached a critical "Proof of Concept" milestone of 30 percent and in this experiment you reach 29.15 percent.
Perovskite covers parts of the spectrum that silicon alone does not cover.
The researchers have achieved a new efficiency record for a valuable type of solar module that is "temptingly" approaching a coveted milestone of 30 percent.
The solar modules consist of a layer combination of two effective semiconductors that work together and improve the silicon modules by adding perovskite "offspring".
The cell in this study is a tandem cell, which means it is a single cell with multiple wavelength phases. Think of it like first sweeping the floor and then using a mop: you're catching different kinds of things with two approaches.
These new cell layers are perovskite and silicon with the right amount of buffer in between so that both can work at maximum efficiency.
Cells like the one in this study - which are only one square centimeter in size - are made of "self-organized" materials, that is, organic materials that independently spread, organize and form the interface between plate surfaces. That said, the research area for these materials is fairly new and there is plenty of room for artful improvements that dramatically increase efficiency.
These researchers did this by "using specially optimized layer compositions to both connect the electrode layer and hold the two cell types together to achieve their new record," reports ScienceAlert.
Careful design allows you to use perovskite at its best efficiency without causing phase instability that is common in existing iterative designs.
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According to ScienceAlert, increasing the size of the 1-inch panel should be pretty straightforward, but it's not clear if it does. Finding the right balance between optimized perovskite film and the most effective, scalable interface materials - the material that develops between layers of solar materials - is still a work in progress.
But that's why this album is so exciting: it's good in itself and there is reason to look optimistically into the future of perovskite tandem cells.
Photo credit: Eike Köhnen / HZB
What is perovskite and why do we bother? Perovskite is "synthetic compounds with an orthorhombic crystal structure that is identical to the naturally occurring mineral of the same name and has a structurally similar chemical formula," explains ScienceDirect.
In nature, perovskite occurs "as brilliant black cubes in many mafic igneous rocks, in the associated pegmatites and in metamorphic contact zones," explains Britannica - which means iron-rich and even quartz-mixed volcanic rocks. Perovskite is calcium titanate with the charming chemical symbol CaTiO3.
Most importantly, perovskite absorbs lower wavelength sunlight better than silicon, making it more useful in a variety of contexts. Using both in a solar panel is a blast in maximizing wavelength coverage.
Scientists work with (occasionally) naturally occurring perovskite, original laboratory-made versions, and minor variations in the structure of the crystalline mineral. They are confident that a combination of these factors will result in better and better panels that will continue the sun's meteoric rise for the past 10 years to the next 10 years and beyond, experts say.
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