Scientists Study Solar Cell Thermal Stability


Scientists at the City University of Hong Kong (CityU) have reportedly begun studying how perovskite solar cells can be adapted for use as an option for renewable energy.

A recent release from the university states that the research was motivated by perovskite’s efficiency in power conversion despite its thermal instability. 

About the Research

“The implications of this research are far-reaching, and its potential applications could revolutionize the solar energy industry,” stated Professor Zhu Zonglong of the Department of Chemistry at CityU, who collaborated with Professor Li Zhongan at Huazhong University of Science and Technology on the project.

Though the perovskite cells can convert power, they reportedly don’t often perform well when exposed to high temperatures. To combat this issue, scientists at CityU created a new type of self-assembled monolayer (SAM), and attached it to a nickel oxide nanoparticle surface as a charge extraction layer to improve the binding ability on the substrate.

“Our approach has dramatically enhanced the thermal robustness of the cells,” said Zhu, adding that “thermal stability is a significant barrier to the commercial deployment of perovskite solar cells.”

“By introducing a thermally robust charge extraction layer, our improved cells retain over 90% of their efficiency, boasting an impressive efficiency rate of 25.6%, even after operated under high temperatures, around 65 degrees Celsius for over 1,000 hours. This is a milestone achievement.”

The CityU team has reportedly now begun to focus on the SAM, calling it an essential part of these cells, and thinking of it as a “heat-sensitive shield that needed reinforcement.”

“Despite their high-power conversion efficiency, these solar cells are like a sports car that runs exceptionally well in cool weather but tends to overheat and underperform on a hot day. This was a significant roadblock preventing their widespread use,” Zhu added.

“We discovered that high-temperature exposure can cause the chemical bonds within SAM molecules to fracture, negatively impacting device performance. So our solution was akin to adding a heat-resistant armour - a layer of nickel oxide nanoparticles, topped by a SAM, achieved through an integration of various experimental approaches and theoretical calculations.”

Research Findings

The scientists stated that the new synthesized SAM molecule can promote more efficient charge extraction in perovskite devices.

The most important outcome of the research, according to the team, is how this discovery could change the landscape of solar energy by improving the thermal stability of perovskite solar cells with the new SAMs. The team states that the new development has laid a foundation for the new cells to work in high-temperature conditions.

“This breakthrough is pivotal as it addresses a major obstacle that previously impeded wider adoption of perovskite solar cells. Our findings could significantly broaden the utilization of these cells, pushing their application boundaries to environments and climates where high temperatures were a deterrent,” said Zhu.

By supporting the commercial viability of perovskite solar cells, the team states that these developments could eventually introduce a new option in the renewable energy market while also establishing a new technology that could play a large role in the shift towards sustainable and efficient energy sources.

“This technology, once fully commercialized, could help decrease our dependence on fossil fuels and contribute substantially to combating the global climate crisis,” Zhu added.

The research was reportedly published in the journal Science.

Similar News

In April, researchers from Swansea University reportedly established a low-cost, callable carbon ink formulation to produce perovskite solar cells at scale for the first time.

The research from engineers at the university’s SPECIFIC Innovation and Knowledge Center was published in the journal Advanced Materials.

According to the university, the process reportedly used slot die coating in a roll-to-roll (R2R) process to create a “fully printable perovskite PV.” The team had searched for an alternative to the gold electrode that is typically applied using an expensive and slow evaporation process after the device has been printed.

The devices' carbon electrodes reportedly provided a similar photovoltaic performance to the conventional evaporated gold electrodes, as part of a small-scale device on a rigid glass substrate. This resulted in power conversion efficiencies (PCE) of 13-14%, as well as the benefits of outperforming at higher temperatures and having better long-term stability.

Researchers reported that the new fully R2R coated device, which was printed onto a 20-meter-long flexible substrate, produced a stabilized power conversion efficiency of 10.8%.

Swansea reported that in just four years, this innovative method for PV was designed and made, assessed and analyzed in detail, adapted and improved, making the possibility of printing and installing millions of meters of solar cells across the globe closer than ever.

The research received funding from the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government, and from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) through SPECIFIC and the Application Targeted and Integrated Photovoltaics (ATIP) Program Grant.


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