Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Photovoltaic array


Smart photovoltaic windows represent a promising green technology featuring tunable transparency and electrical power generation under external stimuli to control the light transmission and manage the solar energy. Here, we demonstrate a thermochromic solar cell for smart photovoltaic window applications utilizing the structural phase transitions in inorganic halide perovskite caesium lead iodide/bromide. The solar cells undergo thermally-driven, moisture-mediated reversible transitions between a transparent non-perovskite phase (81.7% visible transparency) with low power output and a deeply coloured perovskite phase (35.4% visible transparency) with high power output. The inorganic perovskites exhibit tunable colours and transparencies, a peak device efficiency above 7%, and a phase transition temperature as low as 105 °C. We demonstrate excellent device stability over repeated phase transition cycles without colour fade or performance degradation. The photovoltaic windows showing both photoactivity and thermochromic features represent key stepping-stones for integration with buildings, automobiles, information displays, and potentially many other technologies.

Concepts: Solar cell, Photovoltaics, Phase transition, Superconductivity, Solar power, Photovoltaic array, Tidal power, Solar tracker


Acoustic vibrations are shown to enhance the photovoltaic efficiency of a P3HT/ZnO nanorod solar cell by up to 45%, correlated to a three-fold increase in charge carrier lifetime. This is assigned to the generation of piezoelectric dipoles in the ZnO nanorods, indicating that the efficiency of solar cells may be enhanced in the presence of ambient vibrations by the use of piezoelectric materials.

Concepts: Solar cell, Photovoltaics, Dye-sensitized solar cell, Photovoltaic module, Band gap, Photovoltaic array, Energy harvesting, Solar tracker


Although sunlight-driven water splitting is a promising route to sustainable hydrogen fuel production, widespread implementation is hampered by the expense of the necessary photovoltaic and photoelectrochemical apparatus. Here, we describe a highly efficient and low-cost water-splitting cell combining a state-of-the-art solution-processed perovskite tandem solar cell and a bifunctional Earth-abundant catalyst. The catalyst electrode, a NiFe layered double hydroxide, exhibits high activity toward both the oxygen and hydrogen evolution reactions in alkaline electrolyte. The combination of the two yields a water-splitting photocurrent density of around 10 milliamperes per square centimeter, corresponding to a solar-to-hydrogen efficiency of 12.3%. Currently, the perovskite instability limits the cell lifetime.

Concepts: Water, Hydrogen, Electrochemistry, Solar cell, Photovoltaics, Electrolyte, Fuel cell, Photovoltaic array


Organometallic halide perovskite solar cells (PSCs) have shown great promise as a low-cost, high-efficiency photovoltaic technology. Structural and electro-optical properties of the perovskite absorber layer are most critical to device operation characteristics. Here we present a facile fabrication of high-efficiency PSCs based on compact, large-grain, pinhole-free CH3NH3PbI3-xBrx (MAPbI3-xBrx) thin films with high reproducibility. A simple methylammonium bromide (MABr) treatment via spin-coating with a proper MABr concentration converts MAPbI3 thin films with different initial film qualities (for example, grain size and pinholes) to high-quality MAPbI3-xBrx thin films following an Ostwald ripening process, which is strongly affected by MABr concentration and is ineffective when replacing MABr with methylammonium iodide. A higher MABr concentration enhances I-Br anion exchange reaction, yielding poorer device performance. This MABr-selective Ostwald ripening process improves cell efficiency but also enhances device stability and thus represents a simple, promising strategy for further improving PSC performance with higher reproducibility and reliability.

Concepts: Quantum dot, Solar cell, Photovoltaics, Wafer, Photovoltaic module, Ostwald ripening, Photovoltaic array, Solar tracker


State-of-the-art photovoltaics use high-purity, large-area, wafer-scale single-crystalline semiconductors grown by sophisticated, high-temperature crystal growth processes. We demonstrate a solution-based hot-casting technique to grow continuous, pinhole-free thin films of organometallic perovskites with millimeter-scale crystalline grains. We fabricated planar solar cells with efficiencies approaching 18%, with little cell-to-cell variability. The devices show hysteresis-free photovoltaic response, which had been a fundamental bottleneck for the stable operation of perovskite devices. Characterization and modeling attribute the improved performance to reduced bulk defects and improved charge carrier mobility in large-grain devices. We anticipate that this technique will lead the field toward synthesis of wafer-scale crystalline perovskites, necessary for the fabrication of high-efficiency solar cells, and will be applicable to several other material systems plagued by polydispersity, defects, and grain boundary recombination in solution-processed thin films.

Concepts: Crystal structure, Semiconductor, Materials science, Solar cell, Photovoltaics, Wafer, Photovoltaic module, Photovoltaic array


Solution-processed semiconductor quantum dot solar cells offer a path towards both reduced fabrication cost and higher efficiency enabled by novel processes such as hot-electron extraction and carrier multiplication. Here we use a new class of low-cost, low-toxicity CuInSexS2-x quantum dots to demonstrate sensitized solar cells with certified efficiencies exceeding 5%. Among other material and device design improvements studied, use of a methanol-based polysulfide electrolyte results in a particularly dramatic enhancement in photocurrent and reduced series resistance. Despite the high vapour pressure of methanol, the solar cells are stable for months under ambient conditions, which is much longer than any previously reported quantum dot sensitized solar cell. This study demonstrates the large potential of CuInSexS2-x quantum dots as active materials for the realization of low-cost, robust and efficient photovoltaics as well as a platform for investigating various advanced concepts derived from the unique physics of the nanoscale size regime.

Concepts: Photoelectric effect, Quantum dot, Cadmium, Solar cell, Photovoltaics, Wafer, Band gap, Photovoltaic array


Many different photovoltaic technologies are being developed for large-scale solar energy conversion. The wafer-based first-generation photovoltaic devices have been followed by thin-film solid semiconductor absorber layers sandwiched between two charge-selective contacts and nanostructured (or mesostructured) solar cells that rely on a distributed heterojunction to generate charge and to transport positive and negative charges in spatially separated phases. Although many materials have been used in nanostructured devices, the goal of attaining high-efficiency thin-film solar cells in such a way has yet to be achieved. Organometal halide perovskites have recently emerged as a promising material for high-efficiency nanostructured devices. Here we show that nanostructuring is not necessary to achieve high efficiencies with this material: a simple planar heterojunction solar cell incorporating vapour-deposited perovskite as the absorbing layer can have solar-to-electrical power conversion efficiencies of over 15 per cent (as measured under simulated full sunlight). This demonstrates that perovskite absorbers can function at the highest efficiencies in simplified device architectures, without the need for complex nanostructures.

Concepts: Sun, Solar cell, Photovoltaics, Energy conversion, Dye-sensitized solar cell, Thin film solar cell, Solar power, Photovoltaic array


Bismuth-based compounds have recently gained increasing attention as potentially nontoxic and defect-tolerant solar absorbers. However, many of the new materials recently investigated show limited photovoltaic performance. Herein, one such compound is explored in detail through theory and experiment: bismuth oxyiodide (BiOI). BiOI thin films are grown by chemical vapor transport and found to maintain the same tetragonal phase in ambient air for at least 197 d. The computations suggest BiOI to be tolerant to antisite and vacancy defects. All-inorganic solar cells (ITO|NiOx |BiOI|ZnO|Al) with negligible hysteresis and up to 80% external quantum efficiency under select monochromatic excitation are demonstrated. The short-circuit current densities and power conversion efficiencies under AM 1.5G illumination are nearly double those of previously reported BiOI solar cells, as well as other bismuth halide and chalcohalide photovoltaics recently explored by many groups. Through a detailed loss analysis using optical characterization, photoemission spectroscopy, and device modeling, direction for future improvements in efficiency is provided. This work demonstrates that BiOI, previously considered to be a poor photocatalyst, is promising for photovoltaics.

Concepts: Spectroscopy, Solar cell, Photovoltaics, Chemical compound, Crystallographic defect, Solar energy, Photovoltaic module, Photovoltaic array


Although there are numerous approaches for fabricating solar cells, the silicon based photovoltaics are still the most widely used one in industry and around the world. A small increase in the efficiency of silicon based solar cell has huge economic impact and practical importance. We fabricate a silicon-based nanoheterostructure (p+-Si/p-Si/n+-Si (and n-Si)/n-ZnO nanowire (NW) array) photovoltaic device and demonstrate the enhanced device performance through significantly enhanced light absorption by NW array and effective charge carrier separation by the piezo-phototronic effect. The strain-induced piezoelectric polarization charges created at n-doped Si-ZnO interfaces can effectively modulate the corresponding band structure and electron gas trapped in the n+-Si/n-ZnO NW nanoheterostructure, and thus enhance the transport process of local charge carriers. The efficiency of the solar cell was improved from 8.97% to 9.51% by simply applying a static compress strain. This study indicates that the piezo-phototronic effect can enhance the performance of a large-scale silicon-based solar cell, with great potential for industrial applications.

Concepts: Electron, Solar cell, Absorption, Photovoltaics, Germanium, Photovoltaic module, Band gap, Photovoltaic array


Using two-photon tomography, carrier lifetimes are mapped in polycrystalline CdTe photovoltaic devices. These 3D maps probe subsurface carrier dynamics that are inaccessible with traditional optical techniques. They reveal that CdCl2 treatment of CdTe solar cells suppresses nonradiative recombination and enhances carrier lifetimes throughout the film with substantial improvements particularly near subsurface grain boundaries and the critical buried p-n junction.

Concepts: Cadmium, Solar cell, Photovoltaics, Bipolar junction transistor, Diode, P-n junction, Photovoltaic array, Cadmium telluride