A research group at the University of Toronto is working on technology that could pave the way to printable solar cells. Traditional solar cells are relatively expensive to produce because they use highly pure crystalline silicon material that is processed at temperatures that exceed 1,000° C.
The high temperatures and energy required to produce traditional solar cells account for at least part of the cost of the finished solar cells. The new technique relies on perovskite solar cells. Perovskite solar cells use a layer of nanoscopically small glass crystals, which could be included in a printable ink, provided that there’s a way to collect excited electrons and move them into a circuit.
The Toronto researchers have developed a chemical solution that allows the scientists to “grow” an electron selection layer (ESL) at low temperatures. The process still requires heat, but it works at about 150° C – much better and more energy efficient
That’s critical because the ESL allows electrons that have been excited by solar radiation to escape the crystalline layer and travel through an electrical circuit. Combining a viable ESL with printable inks doped with glass particles may enable manufacturers to make printable perovskite solar cells, and turn virtually any surface into a solar collector.
The researchers used a chlorine layer to bind the crystals to the perovskite layer. Besides being a low-temperature production method, the new technique boosts the efficiency of the solar cells beyond 20%, which is the highest efficiency ever recorded by a low-temperature solar cell.
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Photo Credit: Los Alamos National Laboratory, via Flickr.com