Ever heard of a tandem perovskite? While the odd-sounding name may conjure images of who-knows-what for you, it’s likely that in the near future we will all be praising their existence. So, what is it? The cheapest and most efficient solar cell ever invented.
"We are producing higher-efficiency, lower-cost solar cells that show great promise to help solve the world energy crisis," said Dr. Yanfa Yan, a professor of physics at the University of Toledo who is spearheading the research behind perovskites. "The meaningful work will help protect our planet for our children and future generations. We have a problem consuming most of the fossil energies right now, and our collaborative team is focused on refining our innovative way to clean up the mess." Dr. Yan’s research was published in the journal Science.
Perovskites refer to the material that can be used by a solar cell uses to convert sunlight into electrical energy. Until now, silicon has been the material of choice to make this conversion; perovskite is a unique crystal structure composed of a mix of lead and tin which is not only more efficient (23% efficient compared to 18% of silicon solar cells), but cheaper.
"Our UToledo research is ongoing to make cheaper and more efficient solar cells that could rival and even outperform the prevailing silicon photovoltaic technology," said Dr. Zhaoning Song, research assistant professor in the UToledo Department of Physics and Astronomy and co-author on the study. "Our 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."
According to Science Daily, the researchers utilized a chemical compound called guanidinium thiocyanate to greatly improve the structural and optoelectronic properties of the lead-tin mixed perovskite films. Though not yet in the consumer market, Yan hopes the solar cells will soon appear in full-size solar panels.
"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."