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New solar cell breaks records for efficiency and voltage

November 17, 2022

Photo by Aaron Demeter/University of Toronto

In the race to make solar energy more practical amidst soaring gas prices and threats of climate catastrophe, a team of researchers is taking steps toward a more efficient, higher-voltage solar cell.

Now, a Northwestern University, University of Toronto and the University of Toledo team is introducing in a new type of solar cell produced without silicon. Not only does the new cell have extremely high efficiency and record-setting voltage, it also bypasses the need for silicon, which is energetically costly to produce and purify.

In a new paper published this week in Nature, the international team of researchers used two different layers of perovskites — a type of nanocrystal dispersed in a liquid and coated onto a surface using low-cost, well-established techniques. The researchers then tuned each perovskite layer to a different part of the solar spectrum, producing a tandem solar cell.

The team’s prototype solar cell measures one square centimeter in area and produces an open-circuit voltage of 2.19 electron volts, a record for all-perovskite tandem solar cells. Its power-conversion efficiency reached 27.4%, which also breaks the current record for traditional silicon solar cells.

“Further improvements in the efficiency of solar cells are crucial for the ongoing decarbonization of our economy,” said corresponding author Ted Sargent. “While silicon solar cells have undergone impressive advances in recent years, there are inherent limitations to their efficiency and cost, arising from material properties. Perovskite technology can overcome these limitations, but, until now, it had performed below its full potential. Our latest study identifies a key reason for this and points a way forward.”


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