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Highly efficient solar cells pave the way for low-cost flexible panels

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Dr Chen Wei, assistant professor Hou Yi (right), and their team from the National University of Singapore developed the perovskite/ organic tandem solar cells (Credit: National University of Singapore)
Dr Chen Wei, assistant professor Hou Yi (right), and their team from the National University of Singapore developed the perovskite/ organic tandem solar cells (Credit: National University of Singapore)

A team of researchers has demonstrated a power conversion efficiency of 23.6% with solar cells made using perovskite and organic materials.

The research, done at the National University of Singapore (NUS), paves the way for flexible, lightweight, low-cost and ultra-thin photovoltaic cells, which could be used for powering vehicles, blinds and mobile devices.

“High power conversion efficiency of solar cells is critical for generating more electrical power using a limited area and this, in turn, reduces the total cost of generating solar energy,” said lead researcher assistant professor Hou Yi.

The new cells approach the power conversion rate of 26.7% of silicon solar cells, which is the dominating technology in the current solar photovoltaic PV market.

The conventional solar cells being used in solar power plants are based on a single-junction architecture. The practical power conversion efficiency of single-junction solar cells is limited to about 27% in industrial production, the researchers said, with novel solutions needed to improve performance.

“To raise the power conversion efficiency of solar cells to go beyond 30%, stacks of two or more absorber layers (multi-junction cells) are required,” the researchers said.  

Tandem solar cells, which are made using two different types of photovoltaic materials, are a hot area of research. The cells include two or more sub-cells, electrically connected using interconnecting layers (ICLs).

“The ICL plays a critical role in determining the performance and reproducibility of a device,” the research announcement said. “An effective ICL should be chemically inert, electrically conductive and optically transparent.”

Although perovskite/ organic tandem solar cells are attractive for next-generation thin-film photovoltaics, their efficiency lags behind other types of tandem solar cells. To address this technological challenge, Hou and his team developed a novel and effective ICL that reduces voltage, optical and electrical losses within the tandem solar cell. The innovation significantly improved the efficiency of the perovskite/ organic tandem solar cells, achieving a power conversion rate of 23.6%.

“Our study shows the great potential of perovskite-based tandem solar cells for future commercial application of photovoltaic technology,” said Hou. “Building on our new discovery, we hope to further improve the performance of our tandem solar cells and scale up this technology.”

The research was published in Nature Energy.


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