Concept: Energy conversion efficiency
Solar energy is potentially the largest source of renewable energy at our disposal, but significant advances are required to make photovoltaic technologies economically viable and, from a life-cycle perspective, environmentally friendly, and consequently scalable. Cellulose nanomaterials are emerging high-value nanoparticles extracted from plants that are abundant, renewable, and sustainable. Here, we report on the first demonstration of efficient polymer solar cells fabricated on optically transparent cellulose nanocrystal (CNC) substrates. The solar cells fabricated on the CNC substrates display good rectification in the dark and reach a power conversion efficiency of 2.7%. In addition, we demonstrate that these solar cells can be easily separated and recycled into their major components using low-energy processes at room temperature, opening the door for a truly recyclable solar cell technology. Efficient and easily recyclable organic solar cells on CNC substrates are expected to be an attractive technology for sustainable, scalable, and environmentally-friendly energy production.
Active electronic implants are powered by primary batteries, which induces the necessity of implant replacement after battery depletion. This causes repeated interventions in a patients' life, which bears the risk of complications and is costly. By using energy harvesting devices to power the implant, device replacements may be avoided and the device size may be reduced dramatically. Recently, several groups presented prototypes of implants powered by subcutaneous solar cells. However, data about the expected real-life power output of subcutaneously implanted solar cells was lacking so far. In this study, we report the first real-life validation data of energy harvesting by subcutaneous solar cells. Portable light measurement devices that feature solar cells (cell area = 3.6 cm(2)) and continuously measure a subcutaneous solar cell’s output power were built. The measurement devices were worn by volunteers in their daily routine in summer, autumn and winter. In addition to the measured output power, influences such as season, weather and human activity were analyzed. The obtained mean power over the whole study period was 67 µW (=19 µW cm(-2)), which is sufficient to power e.g. a cardiac pacemaker.
Combining carbon nanotubes (CNTs), graphene or conducting polymers with conventional silicon wafers leads to promising solar cell architectures with rapidly improved power conversion efficiency until recently. Here, we report CNT-Si junction solar cells with efficiencies reaching 15% by coating a TiO(2) antireflection layer and doping CNTs with oxidative chemicals, under air mass (AM 1.5) illumination at a calibrated intensity of 100 mW/cm(2) and an active device area of 15 mm(2). The TiO(2) layer significantly inhibits light reflectance from the Si surface, resulting in much enhanced short-circuit current (by 30%) and external quantum efficiency. Our method is simple, well-controlled, and very effective in boosting the performance of CNT-Si solar cells.
Lead halide perovskite solar cells (PSCs) appear to be the ideal future candidate for photovoltaic applications owing to the rapid development in recent years. The electron transport layers (ETLs) prepared by low-temperature process are essential for widespread implementation and large-scale commercialization of PSCs. Here, we report an effective approach for producing planar PSCs with Al(3+) doped SnO2 ETLs prepared by using a low-temperature solution-processed method. The Al dopant in SnO2 enhanced the charge transport behavior of planar PSCs and increased the current density of the devices, compared with the undoped SnO2 ETLs. Moreover, the enhanced electrical property also improved the fill factors (FF) and power conversion efficiency (PCE) of the solar cells. This study has indicated that the low-temperature solution-processed Al-SnO2 is a promising ETL for commercialization of planar PSCs.
Despite the impressive photovoltaic performances with power conversion efficiency beyond 22%, perovskite solar cells are poorly stable under operation, failing by far the market requirements. Various technological approaches have been proposed to overcome the instability problem, which, while delivering appreciable incremental improvements, are still far from a market-proof solution. Here we show one-year stable perovskite devices by engineering an ultra-stable 2D/3D (HOOC(CH2)4NH3)2PbI4/CH3NH3PbI3 perovskite junction. The 2D/3D forms an exceptional gradually-organized multi-dimensional interface that yields up to 12.9% efficiency in a carbon-based architecture, and 14.6% in standard mesoporous solar cells. To demonstrate the up-scale potential of our technology, we fabricate 10 × 10 cm(2) solar modules by a fully printable industrial-scale process, delivering 11.2% efficiency stable for >10,000 h with zero loss in performances measured under controlled standard conditions. This innovative stable and low-cost architecture will enable the timely commercialization of perovskite solar cells.
Following pioneering work, solution-processable organic-inorganic hybrid perovskites-such as CH3NH3PbX3 (X = Cl, Br, I)-have attracted attention as light-harvesting materials for mesoscopic solar cells. So far, the perovskite pigment has been deposited in a single step onto mesoporous metal oxide films using a mixture of PbX2 and CH3NH3X in a common solvent. However, the uncontrolled precipitation of the perovskite produces large morphological variations, resulting in a wide spread of photovoltaic performance in the resulting devices, which hampers the prospects for practical applications. Here we describe a sequential deposition method for the formation of the perovskite pigment within the porous metal oxide film. PbI2 is first introduced from solution into a nanoporous titanium dioxide film and subsequently transformed into the perovskite by exposing it to a solution of CH3NH3I. We find that the conversion occurs within the nanoporous host as soon as the two components come into contact, permitting much better control over the perovskite morphology than is possible with the previously employed route. Using this technique for the fabrication of solid-state mesoscopic solar cells greatly increases the reproducibility of their performance and allows us to achieve a power conversion efficiency of approximately 15 per cent (measured under standard AM1.5G test conditions on solar zenith angle, solar light intensity and cell temperature). This two-step method should provide new opportunities for the fabrication of solution-processed photovoltaic cells with unprecedented power conversion efficiencies and high stability equal to or even greater than those of today’s best thin-film photovoltaic devices.
Thin-film photovoltaic devices based on chalcopyrite Cu(In,Ga)Se2 (CIGS) absorber layers show excellent light-to-power conversion efficiencies exceeding 20% (refs , ). This high performance level requires a small amount of alkaline metals incorporated into the CIGS layer, naturally provided by soda lime glass substrates used for processing of champion devices. The use of flexible substrates requires distinct incorporation of the alkaline metals, and so far mainly Na was believed to be the most favourable element, whereas other alkaline metals have resulted in significantly inferior device performance. Here we present a new sequential post-deposition treatment of the CIGS layer with sodium and potassium fluoride that enables fabrication of flexible photovoltaic devices with a remarkable conversion efficiency due to modified interface properties and mitigation of optical losses in the CdS buffer layer. The described treatment leads to a significant depletion of Cu and Ga concentrations in the CIGS near-surface region and enables a significant thickness reduction of the CdS buffer layer without the commonly observed losses in photovoltaic parameters. Ion exchange processes, well known in other research areas, are proposed as underlying mechanisms responsible for the changes in chemical composition of the deposited CIGS layer and interface properties of the heterojunction.
Silicon nanowire and nanopore arrays promise to reduce manufacturing costs and increase the power conversion efficiency of photovoltaic devices. So far, however, photovoltaic cells based on nanostructured silicon exhibit lower power conversion efficiencies than conventional cells due to the enhanced photocarrier recombination associated with the nanostructures. Here, we identify and separately measure surface recombination and Auger recombination in wafer-based nanostructured silicon solar cells. By identifying the regimes of junction doping concentration in which each mechanism dominates, we were able to design and fabricate an independently confirmed 18.2%-efficient nanostructured ‘black-silicon’ cell that does not need the antireflection coating layer(s) normally required to reach a comparable performance level. Our results suggest design rules for efficient high-surface-area solar cells with nano- and microstructured semiconductor absorbers.
While metal halide perovskite solar cells (PSCs) presently attract enormous research interest because of their high solar to electric power conversion efficiency (PCE) and low fabrication costs, their practical development is hampered by difficulties to reach high performance on large size devices. Here we introduce a simple vacuum-flash solution processing method to obtain shiny, smooth and crystalline perovskite films of high electronic quality over large areas. This enables us to fabricate solar cells with an aperture area exceeding 1 cm(2) showing a maximum efficiency of 20.5% and a certified PCE of 19.6. This exceeds by far the current certified record of 15.6% for PSC of similar size. We demonstrate that the reproducibility of the method is excellent and that the cells show virtually no hysteresis. The success of this new approach paves the way to realize highly efficient large-area PSCs for practical deployment.
An effective way to improve polymer solar cell efficiency is to use a tandem structure, as a broader part of the spectrum of solar radiation is used and the thermalization loss of photon energy is minimized. In the past, the lack of high-performance low-bandgap polymers was the major limiting factor for achieving high-performance tandem solar cell. Here we report the development of a high-performance low bandgap polymer (bandgap <1.4 eV), poly[2,7-(5,5-bis-(3,7-dimethyloctyl)-5H-dithieno[3,2-b:2',3'-d]pyran)-alt-4,7-(5,6-difluoro-2,1,3-benzothia diazole)] with a bandgap of 1.38 eV, high mobility, deep highest occupied molecular orbital. As a result, a single-junction device shows high external quantum efficiency of >60% and spectral response that extends to 900 nm, with a power conversion efficiency of 7.9%. The polymer enables a solution processed tandem solar cell with certified 10.6% power conversion efficiency under standard reporting conditions (25 °C, 1,000 Wm(-2), IEC 60904-3 global), which is the first certified polymer solar cell efficiency over 10%.