A Diamond Anvil Could Lead to a Solar Cell Breakthrough

To improve the performance of solar modules, scientists have increasingly studied the potential of perovskites, a material with a crystal structure that is a breakthrough component for emerging solar cell technologies. Perovskite solar cells promise two very exciting properties: They are highly efficient in converting sunlight into electricity and at the same time are inexpensive in terms of materials and production methods.

However, they are not a straightforward solution. In fact, they pose a significant challenge because of the four atomic configurations that the material can assume, three are unstable at room temperature and quickly revert to a fourth configuration that is unsuitable for solar applications.

A team of scientists from Stanford University and the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory may have found a solution. And it’s about pressing them really, really hard at extremely high temperatures.

By compacting the useless version of this material with a diamond anvil cell, heating it to 450 degrees Celsius, and then cooling it, scientists found that it is possible to change its atomic structure so that it functions stably at room temperature. The pressed version of this material remained both stable and efficient at this temperature for 30 days or more. It was also found to be resistant to degradation caused by humid air, which is an important property for solar cells intended to operate in the real world.

Creating next generation solar panels

“This is the first study to put pressure to control that stability, and it really opens up a lot of possibilities,” said Yu Lin, a SLAC scientist and researcher at the Stanford Institute for Materials and Energy Sciences (SIMES), in a statement . “Now that we’ve found this optimal way to prepare the material, there is potential to scale it up for industrial production and use the same approach to manipulate other perovskite phases.”

There is still much research to be done before this approach can be used commercially to manufacture next-generation solar cells. However, it’s an exciting development that opens up many opportunities for scientists to research further.

A recent article in the journal Nature Communications entitled “Preservation of a Robust CsPbI3 Perovskite Phase by Pressure-Directed Octahedral Tilt” was reported.

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