In a new development to harness solar energy, scientists at the University of Manchester have discovered a way to speed up the uptake of solar technology. The method involves increasing the environmental safety of perovskite solar cells.
Meanwhile, perovskite solar cells have gathered the interest of energy scientists. This is because, unlike silicon solar cells, solar cells made of perovskite can be mass-produced via roll-to-roll processing. In addition, perovskite solar cells are light and colorful, and possess the versatility to be used in non-conventional settings such as contoured roofs and windows.
However, so far, the application of perovskite solar cells has been impacted by potential environmental risks. Predominantly, this is because, perovskite solar cells have lead, and in the event of damage of the cells, lead ions may leak.
Interestingly, taking inspiration from nature, a team of research duo devised a method to eliminate release of lead from broken cells. With the use of hydroxyapatite – a bioinspired mineral – the research duo created a failsafe method that captures lead ions in an inorganic matrix. In this arrangement, if cells break up, toxins are stored in an inert mineral, rather than discharged in the environment.
In fact, in a subsequent success, the project funded by The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council revealed another interesting facet. It revealed that addition of hydroxyapatite increased the efficiency of perovskite solar cells to approximately 21%. On the other hand, control cells have approximately 18% efficiency if hydroxyapatite is not added.
Importantly, in the context of solar energy generation, increased efficiency of solar panels implies increased energy generation at a lower cost.