Rising stars in the field of harnessing solar energy are perovskite solar cells, so named because they use a class of crystal structures like those found in the mineral known as perovskite. The perovskite-structured compound within these solar cells is most commonly a hybrid organic-inorganic lead halide-based material.
About a decade ago, scientists began to study these crystal structures for use in solar cells and over the years have increased their solar energy conversion efficiency.
The perovskite-structured crystals pull energy from different colours of light while silicon panels, by comparison, make electricity from a narrow band of light. The process for making perovskite solar cells is also cheaper and more environmentally friendly than silicon. Perovskite panels are over 25% efficient compared to the 13%-17% for conventional panels.
Traditional silicon solar cells are produced with precise processes using high temperatures, while perovskites cells can be made using room-temperature chemical solutions. However, one major challenge is the use of lead. Most top-performing hybrid perovskite solar cells contain water-soluble lead, raising concerns over potential leakage from damaged cells and creating a major environmental disaster.
If this problem can be addressed, the perovskite-based technology holds transformational potential for rapid terawatt-scale solar deployment.
Perovskite is a calcium titanium oxide mineral, with the chemical formula CaTiO3. The mineral was discovered in the Ural Mountains of Russia by Gustav Rose in 1839 and is named after Russian mineralogist Lev Perovski (1792–1856).
Read more about this development in the March edition of EngineerIT, available soon