Enhanced Solar Cell Longevity May Come From Additives

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by | Feb 19, 2024

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In the landscape of solar technology, research at the University of Michigan unveils a promising avenue for bolstering the endurance of cost-efficient solar cells, potentially revolutionizing the renewable energy sector.

The quest for sustainable and affordable solar energy has led researchers to perovskite solar cells, known for their potential to be significantly cheaper than the current thin-film solar panels. Despite their cost-effectiveness, perovskite solar cells have faced challenges in durability, succumbing quickly to environmental factors like heat, moisture, and air. This has stymied their commercial viability.

A Leap Towards Durable Perovskite Solar Cells

However, recent insights from the University of Michigan suggest a novel approach to extend the lifespan of these solar cells, thereby making them a formidable contender in the solar energy market. The study, led by Xiwen Gong, an assistant professor of chemical engineering, has shown that integrating bulky “defect pacifying” molecules into perovskites can substantially enhance their stability and longevity.

The role of additives in solar cell technology cannot be overstated. By improving efficiency, facilitating charge transfer, and enhancing stability, additives are crucial in advancing the performance and durability of solar cells. This interdisciplinary approach, merging materials science, chemistry, and engineering, continues to push the boundaries of what is possible in renewable energy technologies.

Bridging the Gap with Bulky Molecules

The degradation of perovskite solar cells is largely attributed to the presence of “undercoordinated sites,” or defects, within the crystal structure of the material. These sites impede electron movement and accelerate material decay. The Michigan research focuses on utilizing bulky molecules to mitigate these defects effectively.

Gong’s team experimented with three distinct additives, varying in size and shape, to assess their impact on the perovskite’s structural integrity. The findings were clear: larger molecules, due to their increased binding sites, were more adept at adhering to the perovskite and preventing defect formation. Crucially, the physical bulkiness of these molecules was identified as a key factor in promoting the formation of larger perovskite grains, thereby reducing the prevalence of grain boundaries and associated defects.

This breakthrough not only illuminates the path to creating more resilient perovskite solar cells but also lays the groundwork for a systematic method to identify the optimal molecules for enhancing solar cell stability. As noted by Carlos Alejandro Figueroa Morales, a doctoral student involved in the study, this design philosophy could extend to various perovskite applications, potentially increasing the lifetime of solar cells, light-emitting devices, and photodetectors.

The University of Michigan’s discovery represents potential advances in making solar energy more accessible and sustainable. As the research progresses, the possibility of integrating affordable, long-lasting solar cells into the global energy market inches closer to reality, marking a new chapter in the pursuit of clean, renewable energy.

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