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Polymer Prevents Leakage from Solar Cells

Friday, June 21, 2019

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In a study by scientists from the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (Okinawa, Japan), research showed that a protective layer of epoxy resin applied to perovskite solar cells helps to prevent the leakage of pollutants.

According to professor Yabing Qi, head of the Energy Materials and Surface Sciences Unit: “PSCs are efficient at converting sunlight into electricity at an affordable cost, the fact that they contain lead raises considerable environmental concern.”

To boost the prospects for commercializing the “self-healing” polymer, Qi led a PSC discharge study, which has since been published in Nature Energy.

The Research

With support from the OIST Technology Development and Innovation Center’s Proof-of-Concept Program, Qi and his team of researchers began exploring encapsulation methods for PSCs as to find the best material for preventing leakage of lead.

Okinawa Institue of Science and Technology Graduate University

In a study by scientists from the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University, research showed that a protective layer of epoxy resin applied to perovskite solar cells helps to prevent the leakage of pollutants.

To do so, the team exposed the cells encapsulated with different materials to various weather conditions similar to what the cells would be exposed to in reality. To grasp every “worst-case weather scenario,” the team first tested the coatings by smashing the solar cells with a large ball, idealized to mimic large hailstorms.

Another test involved saturating the cells with acidic water, simulating rainwater that could transport escaped lead into the environment.

By using mass spectroscopy, the team was then able to analyze how much lead had actually been leaked into the acidic rain. OIST’s press release reveals that minimal leakage was reported when using a protective epoxy resin layer, which outperformed all rival encapsulation materials.

Other weather conditions proved favorable for the “self-healing” polymer as well. As an example, after the structure was damaged, reforming properties occurred when the polymer was heated by sunlight, which in turn limited the amount of lead leakage.

What Now

“Epoxy resin is certainly a strong candidate, yet other self-healing polymers may be even better,” says Qi.

“At this stage, we are pleased to be promoting photovoltaic industry standards, and bringing the safety of this technology into the discussion. Next, we can build on these data to confirm which is truly the best polymer.”

Besides weather-induced lead leakage from the PSCs, researchers are now looking to put the polymer-coated cells through another challenge—scaling the PSCs into perovskite solar panels. Currently, the cells are only a few centimeters long, while panels can span meters in length.

Additionally, the team will also be observing a long-standing challenge of renewable energy storage.


Tagged categories: Asia Pacific; Coating Materials; Coating Materials; Coatings; Coatings Technology; Colleges and Universities; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Epoxy; Latin America; North America; Polymers; Protective Coatings; Research; Research and development; Solar; Z-Continents

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