Scientists at Princeton Engineering have developed the first commercially viable perovskite solar cell, marking a milestone for a new class of renewable energy technologies.
The research team predicts that their device can operate above industry standards for 30 years, much longer than the 20 years used as the threshold for solar cell viability.
The device is highly reliable and meets generally accepted standards of efficiency. It is the first battery of its kind to compete in performance with the silicon-based cells that have dominated the market since their introduction in 1954.
Perovskites are semiconductors with a particular crystal structure that makes them well suited for solar cells. They can be produced at room temperature using far less energy than silicon, making them cheaper and more environmentally friendly.
And while silicon is rigid and opaque, perovskites can be made flexible and transparent by extending solar energy far beyond the iconic rectangular panels. But unlike silicon, perovskites are very brittle.
Early perovskite solar cells (PSCs), built between 2009 and 2012, lasted only a few minutes. The predicted lifetime of the new device is a fivefold increase from the previous record set by the lower efficiency PSC in 2017.
The Princeton team, led by Lynn Lu, Theodora D., and William H. Walton, Professor of Engineering, presented their new device and a new method for testing such devices in a paper published June 16, 2022, in the journal Science.
“Today, we may have a record, but tomorrow someone else will come up with a better result. The most interesting thing is that we now have a way to test these devices and determine how they will perform in the long term.”
Professor Lu said the record-breaking design highlighted PSC’s long-term potential, especially to take solar cell technology beyond silicon. But she also pointed to the headline results and the new accelerated aging technique her team developed as the work’s more profound meaning.
Due to the well-known fragility of perovskites, long-term testing has so far been of little concern. But as devices get better and last longer, testing one design against another will be critical to delivering reliable and consumer-friendly technologies.