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Scientists Formulate New Method To Create Low-Cost High Efficiency Solar Cells

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An anonymous reader quotes a report from Phys.Org: Scientists from the Energy Materials and Surface Sciences Unit at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST) believe they've found a winning formula in a new method to fabricate low-cost high-efficiency solar cells. Prof. Yabing Qi and his team from OIST in collaboration with Prof. Shengzhong Liu from Shaanxi Normal University, China, developed the cells using the materials and compounds that mimic the crystalline structure of the naturally occurring mineral perovskite. They describe their technique in a study published in the journal Nature Communications. Perovskite offers a more affordable solution, Prof. Qi says. Perovskite was first used to make solar cells in 2009 by Prof. Tsutomu Miyasaka's research team at Toin University of Yokohama, Japan, and since then it has been rapidly gaining importance. The fabrication method he and his research team have developed produces perovskite solar cells with an efficiency comparable to crystalline silicon cells, but it is potentially much cheaper than making silicon solar cells. To make the new cells, the researchers coated transparent conductive substrates with perovskite films that absorb sunlight very efficiently. They used a gas-solid reaction-based technique in which the substrate is first coated with a layer of hydrogen lead triiodide incorporated with a small amount of chlorine ions and methylamine gas -- allowing them to reproducibly make large uniform panels, each consisting of multiple solar cells. In developing the method, the scientists realized that making the perovskite layer 1 micron thick increased the working life of the solar cell significantly. In addition, a thicker coating not only boosted the stability of the solar cells but also facilitated the fabrication processes, thereby lowering its production costs. The team is now working on increasing the size of their newly designed solar cell prototype to large commercial-sized panels that can be several feet long. They have reportedly built a working model of their new perovskite solar modules, thanks to funding from OIST's Technology Development and Innovation Center, but "the process of upscaing has reduced the efficiency of the cells from 20% to 15%," reports Phys.Org. "[T]he researchers are optimistic that they will be able to improve the way they work in the coming years and successfully commercialize their use."

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