Rice University scientists have succeeded in creating atomically thin solar cells with the help of semiconducting perovskites.
What’s more, a 2D coat of a perovskite compound forms the basis for an efficient solar cell that might stand up to environmental wear and tear, unlike earlier perovskites.
The lab of associate professor Aditya Mohite of Rice’s George R. Brown School of Engineering discovered that sunlight itself contracts the space between atomic layers in 2D perovskites.
This is enough to improve the material’s photovoltaic efficiency by up to 18%, an astounding leap in a field where progress is often measured in fractions of a percent.
“In 10 years, the efficiencies of perovskites have skyrocketed from about 3% to over 25%,” says Mohite. “Other semiconductors have taken about 60 years to get there. That’s why we’re so excited.”
This finding was made possible due to a collaborative effort featuring scientists from Rice, Purdue and Northwestern universities, Los Alamos, Argonne and Brookhaven National Laboratories, and the Institute of Electronics and Digital Technologies (INSA) in Rennes, France.
“We find that as you light the material, you kind of squeeze it like a sponge and bring the layers together to enhance the charge transport in that direction,” explains Mohite.
The researchers found placing a layer of organic cations between the iodide on top and lead on the bottom enhanced interactions between the layers.
According to the scientists, the nature of the lattice makes the material less prone to degrading, even when heated to 80 degrees Celsius (176 degrees Fahrenheit).
It also quickly relaxed back to its normal configuration once the light was turned off.
Image and content: Jeff Fitlow/Rice University