Double Perovskites in Environmentally-Friendly Solar Cells

A further step has been taken along the road to manufacturing solar cells from lead-free perovskites.

The lead-free double perovskite solar cells (yellow, in the front) compared with the lead-based device (dark, in the background). The next step is tune the color of the double perovskites into dark, so that they can absorb more light for efficient solar cells. Image credit: Linköping University
The lead-free double perovskite solar cells (yellow, in the front) compared with the lead-based device (dark, in the background). The next step is tune the color of the double perovskites into dark, so that they can absorb more light for efficient solar cells. Image credit: Linköping University

A further step has been taken along the road to manufacturing solar cells from lead-free perovskites. High quality films based on double perovskites, which show promising photovoltaic properties, have been developed in collaboration between Linköping University, Sweden, and Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.

Research groups around the world have recognised the potential of perovskites as one of the most promising materials for the development of cheap, environmentally friendly and efficient solar cells. In just a few years, the power conversion efficiency has increased from a few percent to over 22 percent. The perovskites currently available for use in solar cells, however, contain lead, and Feng Gao, senior lecturer at LiU, was appointed in the autumn of 2017 as Wallenberg Academy Fellow to develop lead-free double perovskites, in which a monovalent metal and a trivalent metal replace the divalent lead.

In the laboratory at the Division of Biomolecular and Organic Electronics, LiU, postdoc researchers Weihua Ning and Feng Wang have successfully manufactured single-layer thin films of densely packed crystals of double perovskites. The films are of extremely high quality and can be used as the active layer in solar cells, in which sunlight is absorbed and charge carriers created.

"Our colleagues at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore have shown that the charge carriers demonstrate long diffusion lengths in the material, which is necessary if the material is to be appropriate for solar cells," says Feang Gao.

The power conversion efficiency of the solar cells is still low -- only around 1 percent of the energy in sunlight is concerted converted to electricity -- but neither Feng Gao or Weihua Ning are worried.

"No, we have taken the first major step and developed a method to manufacture the active layer. We have several good ideas of how to proceed to increase the efficiency in the near future," says Feng Gao.

Researchers have calculated that over 4,000 different combinations of materials can form double perovskites. They will also use theoretical calculations to identify the combinations that are most suitable for use in solar cells.

This breakthrough for research in double perovskites is also a result of the joint PhD program research education in materials science and nanoscience/technology at Linköping University and Nanyang Technological University.

"This publication is a spin-off of the discussions in relation to the joint PhD program between NTU and LiU. Two PhD students, one on each side, have been recruited to work on this project. This is an excellent start for the program." says Professor Tze Chien Sum from NTU.

"We complement each other very well, the group led by Professor Tze Chien Sum in NTU are experts in photophysics and we are experts in materials science and device physics," says Feng Gao.

The results are published in the  scientific journal Advanced Materials.

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