Cheaper, more efficient solar technology a step closer

  Last updated February 1, 2019 at 10:44 am

Topics:  

Australian researchers have boosted the efficiency of solar cells by combining silicon and perovskite – and that could mean cheaper solar energy.


A newly developed solar cell boosts their efficiency by combining silicon and perovskite. Credit: Lannon Harley, ANU


A new study led by The Australian National University (ANU) could lead to cheaper and more efficient solar technology.


Study co-author Dr Heping Shen from the ANU School of Engineering says the current solar cell market is dominated by silicon-based technology, which is nearing its efficiency limit.


“In order to continue the transition to a renewable energy based economy, we need to keep reducing the cost of solar energy, and the best way to do that is to increase the efficiency of solar cells,” Dr Shen said.


“If we can have a cheap source of energy that is also clean – who wouldn’t want to use it?”


ANU engineers, in collaboration with researchers from the California Institute of Technology, have developed a way to combine silicon with another material (known as perovskite), to more efficiently convert sunlight into electricity.


Their results have been published in the journal Science Advances.


The key is the way the materials are joined together to form what’s known as a ‘tandem solar cell’ – essentially one solar cell on top of another. The ANU researchers say theirs is one of the simplest ever developed.


“We have constructed a tandem structure that is unconventional. When engineers combine two cells they usually need to have an interlayer to allow electrical charge to be transferred easily between the two cells, so they can work together,” Dr Shen said.


According to co-author Dr Daniel Jacobs, this is a bit like making a club sandwich with extra bread in the middle – it plays a structural role, but the sandwich would taste better without it.


“We’ve found a new way to simply stack the two cells together so they’ll work efficiently with each other – we don’t need the interlayer, or extra bread, anymore,” Dr Jacobs said.


This minimises energy waste and simplifies the structure, hopefully making it cheaper and easier to produce.


“With tandems it’s crucial to demonstrate a fabrication process that is as simple as possible, otherwise the additional complexity is not worthwhile from a cost perspective”, Dr Jacobs said.


“Our structure involves one less fabrication step, and has benefits for performance too.”


Dr Jacobs says while it can be difficult to combine two materials in a tandem arrangement, once you get it right the efficiency goes up very quickly, well beyond what is possible with silicon by itself.


“We’ve already reached 24 per cent improvement in efficiency with this new structure, and there’s plenty of room left to grow that figure.”


Related


Zapping a new approach to solar cells


Pegah Maasoumi – Solar Windows


Perovskite breakthrough helps solar cells sizzle


Educational Resource


Cheaper, more efficient solar technology a step closer




About the Author

ANU Newsroom
The latest and best news from the Australian National University

Published By

Featured Videos

Placeholder
Space technology predicts droughts several months in advance
Placeholder
ANU Science On Location: Booderee National Park
Placeholder
ANU Science On Location: Ningaloo Reef
Placeholder
A mix of science and sourdough
Placeholder
How does the crested pigeon make their mysterious alarm sound?
Placeholder
Why do magpies swoop?
Placeholder
Critically endangered swift parrot needs your help!
Placeholder
ANU Science On Location: Siding Spring Observatory
Placeholder
ANU Science On Location: Mountain Ash forests
Placeholder
ANU Science On Location: Warramunga Station
Placeholder
Secret life may thrive in warm caves under Antarctica’s glaciers
Placeholder
Scientists help solve mystery of what causes exploding stars
Placeholder
Case Closed: Mystery of How First Animals Appeared on Earth Has Been Solved
Placeholder
Palm cockatoos beat drum like Ringo Starr
Placeholder
Butterfly wings inspire new solar technologies
Placeholder
From window to mirror, on demand
Placeholder
The search for exploding stars
Placeholder
Coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef
Placeholder
Join The Search For Planet 9