UCLA researchers develop new solar cell technology using perovskite materials

A research team from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) has developed a new process for manufacturing highly efficient solar cells that shows promise for low-cost industrial production. The UCLA scientists used perovskite crystals made from a hybrid of inorganic and organic materials for the development of the new solar cell and developed a vapor-assisted solution for the cell production that, in comparison to the wet process, lowers the cost of the vacuum process.
The UCLA team's research focused on perovskite crystals made from a hybrid of inorganic and organic materials – methyl ammonium halide and lead halide, respectively – which are then made into a thin film that is sandwiched between two electrodes. The UCLA researchers then devised a way to produce solar cells using those materials more efficiently and cost-effectively than the current standard methods.
Until now, the researchers explain, engineers have typically created the perovskite film using one of two processes: either a solution of the organic and inorganic materials is used to create the film or the two components are thermally evaporated together inside a vacuum chamber. While each technique has been successful in research labs, both are challenging for large-scale industrial production. The wet process results in decreased film quality, and the vacuum process requires expensive equipment and uses a great deal of energy.
The UCLA team's new approach is a vapor-assisted solution process that efficiently produces perovskite solar cells without the flaws associated with the other techniques. The vapor-assisted process involves coating a substrate with the inorganic component and then treating it in a steam bath of organic molecules at about 150 °Celsius. The organic material infiltrates the inorganic matter and forms a compact perovskite film that is significantly more uniform than the films produced by the wet technique.
The researchers report that in a few test runs, the technique has produced solar cells with a highly efficient power conversion rate of more than 12% – a rate comparable to or better than that of amorphous silicon solar cells. The UCLA researchers are now working toward improving that performance.

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