Today, solar panels are usually made of silicon, but in the future, they can be made from a different material which provides more efficiency and lower manufacturing cost. The material that can replace silicon for these next-generation solar panels is called perovskite. MIT researchers say perovskites offer a low-cost, low-temperature manufacturing capability for extremely flexible and lightweight cells.
However, the efficiency of perovskite-based solar panels at converting sunlight into electricity is currently lower than that of silicon-based panels and that of other alternative materials. Massachusetts Institute of Technology He developed a new approach to solar panel design using perovskites, resulting in panels that match or exceed the efficiency of an existing typical silicon cell.
The efficiency of typical silicon-based solar panels today lies somewhere in the region of 20 to 22 percent. The researchers used a specially treated conductive layer of tin dioxide bound with perovskite to provide an optimized pathway for the charge carriers in the cell. The perovskite formula has also been modified and merged with the new conductive layer, allowing the researchers to increase the overall efficiency of the solar cell to 25.2 percent.
Researchers say this is close to a record for such materials and better than the efficiency of many existing solar panels. One of the downsides of perovskites for solar panels is that they still lag significantly behind in longevity compared to silicon based panels. Perovskites are a broad class of substances that are defined by the presence of a specific molecular arrangement or network that resembles that of the natural perovskite mineral.
Scientists note that there is a wide range of potential chemical combinations that perovskites can make. The material category is widely considered attractive to researchers because it appears that they can be manufactured more cheaply than silicon or gallium arsenide. One of the downsides to gallium arsenide, another alternative material for solar panels, is that it requires temperatures in excess of 1000 ° C to manufacture.