A new approach towards highly efficient and air-stable perovskite solar cells

Research published in Materials Today reveals how to make highly-efficient solar cells, more stable than previous devices made with related materials

Oxford, February 26, 2018

Research into the use of perovskite materials as solar cells has boomed in the last several years, following reports of high energy conversion efficiencies, which have continued to climb. New research published in the journal Materials Today reveals how to improve the lifetime of these solar cells.

Despite the intense interest in the materials for solar energy applications, "improving the stability of perovskite solar cells is a challenging task," explains Dr. Chang Kook Hong, corresponding author, from Chonnam National University in South Korea.

Perovskite is the general term for any mineral that has the same crystal structure as a particular form of calcium titanium oxide, first unearthed in the Ural Mountains of Russia in 1839 and named for the Russian mineralogist L. A. Perovski. The unique structure of perovskites can be tweaked for particular properties by changing the various cations and anions from which they are formed. Fundamentally, the structure has the general chemical formula ABX3 where the 'A' and the 'B' represent positively-charged metal ions, cations, that are very different in size, and the 'X' is a negatively charged anion that bonds to both metal cations linking them together in the crystal.

Perovskites can be synthesized in the laboratory very cheaply and formed into thin films that can be incorporated into solar cells. Cations need not be metal ions, but can be any positively-charged ion, such as the ammonium ion or an organic ion; provided A and B are different sizes and a suitable negative ion is used they will give the perovskite structure.

Dr. Hong and colleagues have developed a method known as co-precipitation to make a thin film comprising nanoporous nickel oxide as the hole transporting layer (HTL) for a perovskite solar cell that uses the unique composition of FAPbI3 and or MAPbBr3 as the perovskite layer. Holes are the positive equivalent of negative electrons in discussions of electrochemistry. FAPbI3 is formamidinium lead iodide and MAPbBr3 is methylammonium lead bromide. In addition, they used an organic air-stable inorganic zinc oxide nanoparticles compound as the ETL (electron transporting layer) in order to protect perovskite layer from air.

"We successfully optimized the metal oxide based HTL and ETL protecting layers for highly efficient perovskite absorber by a simple method which can make air-stable photovoltaics," explains co-author Dr. Sawanta Mali. "Our main goal is to solve the problem of the tedious process of making conventional additive-doped, highly expensive, unstable HTLs by replacing low-cost, inorganic air-stable p and n-type metal oxides," Dr. Mali added.

Preliminary tests of the prowess of their device using these perovskites device architecture revealed a 19.10 percent (±1 percent) power conversion efficiency. The current density of the device was almost 23 milliamps per square centimeter and it could generate 1.076 Volts. Importantly, the device could sustain four-fifths of this level of efficiency in use for around five months.

The team suggests that their approach could lead the way to highly efficient and air-stable perovskite solar cells. "This technique is limited to the laboratory scale, however large-scale fabrication should also be possible with this device architecture," said Dr. Hong.


Notes for editors
The article is "Nanoporous p-type NiOx electrode for p-i-n inverted perovskite solar cell toward air stability," by Sawanta S. Mali, et al. (http://doi.org/10.1016/j.mattod.2017.12.002). It appears in Materials Today, published by Elsevier.

Copies of this paper are available to credentialed journalists upon request; please contact Alia Kontelli at a.kontelli@elsevier.com. In online coverage of this paper, please mention the journal Materials Today and link to the paper at http://doi.org/10.1016/j.mattod.2017.12.002.

The authors’ affiliations and disclosures of financial and conflicts of interests are available in the article.

About Materials Today
Materials Today is the flagship journal of the Materials Today family and is dedicated to covering the most innovative, cutting edge and influential work of broad interest to the materials science community. Having established the journal as one of the most highly respected sources of news and reviews in materials science over the last two decades, Materials Today has recently expanded its scope to cover ground breaking original research in materials science, and aims to become a leading forum in the field.

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