Researchers from Australia National University (ANU) have set a new record for solar cell efficiency, reaching a rate of 21.6%, the highest amount ever recorded for a perovskite solar cell measuring 1cm². This means that 21.6% of sunlight converts into energy when it hits the cells. It’s an impressive boost in efficiency for solar cells when taking into account that solar panels being installed on rooftops in Australia have an efficiency rate of 17-18%. The results were independently verified by the CSIRO Photovoltaics Performance Lab, which is also the only lab in the Southern Hemisphere accredited to verify solar cell efficiencies to international standards.
Dr. Jun Peng and Associate Professor Thomas White show the perovskite solar cell, which is 1cm² and has an efficiency rate of 21.6%. (Image Credit: Lannon Harley, ANU)
“There are three things you’re trying to achieve with solar cells,, you’re trying to make them efficient, stable and cheap.” said Associate Professor Thomas White “Perovskites are the future of solar cells.”
Perovkskite solar cells are made up of abundant and cheap chemical elements such as carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, iodine and lead. These cells are much cheaper to produce than traditional silicon cells and have higher power conversion efficiency. There are also some downsides to these cells due to its instability, sensitivity to temperature and moisture, plus, it also carries a risk of toxicity due to the presence of lead.
“With perovskites the efficiency is now competitive, and cost is one of the big selling points. The real challenge now is making them stable enough to be used on a rooftop, for example, where they have to be able to last 25 to 30 years in extreme temperatures.” White said.
The bigger goal here is to produce tandem solar cells made up of both perovskite and silicon. “Putting the two materials together can potentially give us higher efficiencies than either one alone,” White added.
Associate professor White and his team have been working with perovskite solar cells for years as it’s well known that silicon cells are starting to reach their peak. As a result, newer technologies will need to be manufactured if better options are to be explored. “Ninety-five percent of solar cells are made of silicon at the moment. It’s a very, very good material, but it’s going to reach the upper limit of its efficiency in the next five or 10 years,” White said.
The new efficiency record means perovskite cells that are 1cm² can now produce 216 watts of electrical power per square meter. This was accomplished by Dr Jun Peng, who also created a nanostructured material that can cause a solar cell to generate high voltage and high current at the same time.
The future looks bright for perovskite solar cells with institutions around the world participating in research and testing, eagerly discovering their capabilities. Europe has also gained a common ground when it comes to pursuing perosvkite tandem solar cell research with laboratories located in Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) and Oxford PV, exceeding conversion rates of 25%. However, these cells aren’t the same size as the one created by White’s team.
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