Better and cheaper solar power on the horizon – UQ News

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A new generation of cheap, durable and efficient solar cells is getting closer, thanks to scientists at the University of Queensland.

Researchers at UQ’s Australian Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN) have modified a nanomaterial to make solar cells as efficient as silicon-based cells, but without their high cost and complex manufacturing.

Professor Joe Shapter said the discovery meets an urgent need for environmentally friendly alternative energy sources that can provide efficient and reliable power generation.

“Silicon-based solar cells remain the dominant first-generation product, accounting for 90% of the market, but demand was high for cells that could be manufactured without their high prices and complexity,” Prof Shapter said.

“Among next-generation technologies, perovskite solar cells (PSCs) have attracted enormous attention due to their high efficiency and ease of fabrication.

“Technology has experienced unprecedented rapid development in recent years.

“But the new generation of solar cells still have some drawbacks, such as poor long-term stability, lead toxicity, and high material costs.”

Professor Shapter said his team had investigated a nanomaterial with great promise to overcome some of the new cell’s drawbacks and used doping, a common method of modifying the new cell’s nanomaterial to improve its electrical properties.

The researchers found that the efficiency and thermal stability of the doped cells significantly outperformed those that were not doped.

“PSCs that had spiked cells showed remarkable solar conversion efficiency that exceeded 21%,” Professor Shapter said.

Solar cell efficiency is the rate at which a solar panel transfers sunlight into electricity, with the average efficiency of silicon cells currently hovering between 15-22%.

“This gives us hope that solar power can continue to grow and improve as one of the most efficient renewable and sustainable energy technologies,” Prof Shapter said.

The research involved a collaboration with Professor Mohammad Nazeeruddin of the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland.

Associate Professor Yun Wang of Griffith University contributed modeling to understand the interplay between doped cell layers and materials used in light absorption.

“Our results explain how doped cells can greatly improve the energy conversion efficiency and lifetime of solar cells observed in AIBN experiments,” Dr. Wang said.

Prof Shapter said the research was part of a global push for advanced and sustainable solar cell technology.

“Our research contributes to intensive efforts to develop different types of solar cells with the aim of achieving efficient, stable and inexpensive replacements for current silicon-based technology.”

The research has been published in Physical Sciences Cell Reports (DOI: 10.2139/ssrn.3891059).

Media: UQ Communications, Erik de Wit, e.dewit@uq.edu.au+61 (0)447 305 979.

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