Solar cells produced with tin instead of the more commonly used lead could make them more adaptable and simpler to produce, according to research from the University of Warwick.
Semiconductors known as lead perovskites used in solar cells are rapidly emerging as an efficient way to convert sunlight directly into electricity. However, the reliance on lead is a serious barrier to commercialisation, due to the well-known toxicity of the material.
In a paper published in Nature Energy, Dr Ross Hatton, Professor Richard Walton and colleagues from the University of Warwick, show that perovskites using tin in place of lead are much more stable than previously thought, and so could prove to be a viable alternative to lead perovskites for solar cells.
The team have also shown how the device structure can be greatly simplified without compromising performance, which would lead to reduced fabrication costs.
Lead-free cells could therefore render solar power cheaper, safer and more commercially attractive - leading to it becoming a more prevalent source of energy in everyday life, said the research team. This could lead to a more widespread use of solar power, with potential uses in products such as laptop computers, mobile phones and cars.
Dr Hatton said: “It is hoped that this work will help to stimulate an intensive international research effort into lead-free perovskite solar cells, like that which has resulted in the astonishingly rapid advancement of lead perovskite solar cells.
“There is now an urgent need to tackle the threat of climate change resulting from humanity’s over reliance on fossil fuel, and the rapid development of new solar technologies must be part of the plan.”
The paper, Enhanced Stability and Efficiency in Hole-Transport Layer Free CsSnI3 Perovskite Photovoltaics, is published in Nature Energy, and is authored by Dr Ross Hatton, Professor Richard Walton and PhD student Kenny Marshall in the department of chemistry, along with Dr Marc Walker in the department of physics.