Solar researchers have been going nuts over perovskites, a class of synthetic crystals that could far surpass conventional silicon solar cells with lower costs and higher efficiency. As a result of all the attention, perovskite solar cell efficiency has been zooming upwards, and two new findings from Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Stanford University could push things along even further.
As for how fast things are zooming along, in 2006 the early attempts at perovskite solar cells clocked a conversion efficiency of 2-3 percent. By 2015, that figure was up to 20 percent.
Perovskite crystals are based on the structure of the naturally occurring mineral perovskite, and lately attention has been focused on a group called organometallic halide perovskites (organometallics combine carbon and a metal, and halides are compounds of a halogen and another element).
Though much has been accomplished in terms of efficiency in just a few years, the Energy Department has targeted a number of key challenges for organometallic halide perovskite solar cells including stability (they don’t like humidity), materials toxicity (namely, lead), and kinks in the manufacturing process.
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