A Nature article described the viability of a new form of solar cell. They are called perovskite solar cells.
There is an increase in the size and efficiency of the perovskite solar cells. 90% of the photovoltaic devices in use utilise crystalline silicon. It converts light into electricity from semiconductors.
However, these forms of photovoltaics are expensive. Also, the by-products from the technology are toxic. So the search for cheap and safe solar technology is onward.
“Perovskites could be a game-changer. These materials have crystal structures that are based on pyramid-like tetrahedral arrangements of atoms or molecules,” Nature said. “Long explored as potential semiconductors, superconductors and for their optical and magnetic properties, perovskites are also efficient at absorbing light and transporting charges — ideal properties for capturing solar power.”
They are both cheap and easy to assemble in addition to their efficiency in absorbing light. They are a major candidate in a crystalline silicon dominated marketplace. “Typically they combine common inorganic and organic components, often methylammonium or formamidinium, both compounds of carbon, hydrogen and nitrogen.”
The research into the perovskite solar cells has boomed in the last few years based on their viability to meet the increasing demands of energy and safer solar technologies than the current crystalline photovoltaic forms. In solution, they can be printed on glass or film over several square centimetres.
“In 2006, the first perovskite photovoltaic converted 2.2% of photons into electrons1; by 2016, that figure was 22.1%. Silicon rooftop panels have an efficiency of 16–20%; perovskite cells could in theory reach 31%. And even higher efficiencies might be achieved by combining silicon and perovskite devices.”
Perovskite has become a viable contender in that sense. In that, the conversion of photons into electrons is higher than the standard silicon rooftop panels, which are about 1/3 lower than the theoretical heights of perovskite solar cells.
Perovskite has problems, though. “The main one is stability: the cells currently only last for months outdoors, whereas silicon solar panels are usually guaranteed to work for at least 25 years.”
The weather and the extremes of it can deteriorate or degrade the perovskite solar cells more rapidly than the crystalline silicon ones with moisture as a major problem. The lifespans of the perovskite solar cells went from a few minutes to about a half of a year, recently.
So the authors of the article used this as the main point. That is, there needs to be more research into the potential for longevity of the perovskite solar cells to compete more fully with crystalline solar cells in durability, efficiency, ease of setup, and price-performance in general.
“Finding new stable materials requires interdisciplinary research and more funding. Theoretical physicists and materials scientists need to calculate and predict material properties; chemists and materials scientists to synthesise and study their properties; and engineers to develop devices.”