Scientists have greatly improved the operational stability of perovskite solar cells. The devices lost less than 5 percent performance when subjected to a crucial accelerated aging test during which they were exposed for more than 1,000 hours to full sunlight at 60° C. The Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) team introduced cuprous thiocyanate protected by a thin layer of reduced graphene oxide in the solar cells.

Perovskite solar cells (PSCs) can offer high light-conversion efficiency with low manufacturing costs. But to be commercially viable, perovskite films must also be durable and not degrade under solar light over time.

The EPFL scientists have now greatly improved the operational stability of PSCs, retaining more than 95% of their initial efficiencies of over 20% under full sunlight illumination at 60º C for more than 1000 hours.

The researcher’s report about the breakthrough, which marks the highest stability for perovskite solar cells, has been published in the journal Science.

Conventional silicon solar cells have reached a point of maturation, with efficiency plateaus around 25% with issues of high-cost manufacturing, heavy weights, and rigidity that have remained largely unresolved. By comparison the relatively new photovoltaic technology based on perovskite solar cells has already achieved more than 22% efficiency.

Structure of β-CuSCN and cross-sectional SEM micrograph of a complete solar cell. Image Credit: M. Ibrahim Dar/EPFL. Click image for the largest view.

With the vast chemical versatility, and the low-cost processability of perovskite materials, PSCs hold the promise to lead the future of photovoltaic technology by offering cheap, light weight and highly efficient solar cells. But until now, only highly expensive, prototype organic hole-transporting materials (HTMs, selectively transporting positive charges in a solar cell) have been able to achieve power-conversion efficiencies over 20%. And by virtue of their ingredients, these hole-transporting materials adversely affect the long-term operational stability of the PSC.

This makes investigating cheap and stable hole transporters that produce equally high efficiencies to enable large-scale deployment of perovskite solar cells of great importance. Among various inorganic HTMs, cuprous thiocyanate (CuSCN) stands out as a stable, efficient and cheap candidate ($0.5/gr versus $500 /gr for the commonly used spiro-OMeTAD). But previous attempts to use CuSCN as a hole transporter in perovskite solar cells have yielded only moderately stabilized efficiencies and poor device stability, due to problems associated with depositing a high-quality CuSCN layer atop of the perovskite film, as wells as the chemical instability of the CuSCN layer when integrated into a perovskite solar cell.

The breakthrough comes from researchers at Michael Grätzel’s lab at EPFL, in a project led by postdocs Neha Arora and M. Ibrahim Dar who introduced two new concepts that overcome the major shortcomings of CuSCN-based perovskite solar cells. First, they developed a simple dynamic solution-based method for depositing highly conformal, 60-nm thick CuSCN layers that allows the fabrication of perovskite solar cells with stabilized power-conversion efficiencies exceeding 20%. This is comparable to the efficiencies of the best performing, state-of-the-art spiro-OMeTAD-based perovskite solar cells.

Second, the scientists introduced a thin spacer layer of reduced graphene oxide between the CuSCN and a gold layer. This innovation allowed the perovskite solar cells to achieve excellent operational stability, retaining over 95% of their initial efficiency while operating at a maximum power point for 1000 hours under full-sun illumination at 60° C. This surpasses even the stability of organic HTM-based perovskite solar cells that are heavily researched and have recently dominated the field.

The researchers also discovered that the instability of the perovskite devices originates from the degradation of CuSCN/gold contact during the solar cell’s operation.

Michael Grätzel said, “This is a major breakthrough in perovskite solar-cell research and will pave the way for large-scale commercial deployment of this very promising new photovoltaic technology.”

M. Ibrahim Dar added, “It will benefit the numerous scientists in the field that have been intensively searching for a material that could replace the currently used, prohibitively expensive organic hole-transporters.”

While it may seem less than climactic, this research is quite the breakthrough from a longevity and build cost standpoint. The team deserves the well earned congratulations as the publishing of the work in the journal Science makes clear.


2 Comments so far

  1. Solid waste treatment plant cost on October 10, 2017 2:35 AM

    While it may seem less than climactic, this research is quite the breakthrough from a longevity and build cost standpoint.

  2. alisa on October 10, 2017 3:50 AM

    The team work is deserved to be affirmed.

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