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Engineers Prevent Degradation of Promising Solar Cell Materials

Solar panel field.
Credit: American Public Power Association / Unsplash.
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Georgia Tech materials engineers have unraveled the mechanism that causes degradation of a promising new material for solar cells — and they’ve been able to stop it using a thin layer of molecules that repels water.

Their findings are the first step in solving one of the key limitations of metal halide perovskites, which are already as efficient as the best silicon-based solar cells at capturing light and converting it into electricity. They reported their work in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

“Perovskites have the potential of not only transforming how we produce solar energy, but also how we make semiconductors for other types of applications like LEDs or phototransistors. We can think about them for applications in quantum information technology, such as light emission for quantum communication,” said Juan-Pablo Correa-Baena, assistant professor in the School of Materials Science and Engineering and the study’s senior author.

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“These materials have impressive properties that are very promising.”

For that, Correa-Baena is turning to Georgia Tech chemist and materials scientist Antonio Facchetti to develop new molecules that can prevent water interactions and remain stable at high temperatures.

It will be the next chapter in a story Correa-Baena said Tech is writing to help make Georgia a leader in emerging solar energy technology.

“Industry is already very interested, with companies around the U.S. popping up and trying to commercialize this. All the technology that we're creating here at Georgia Tech is eventually going to be able to be translated into industry,” he said. “We want to create an ecosystem where Georgia becomes big in solar manufacturing activities, and hopefully that will include perovskites.”

Reference: Hidalgo J, Kaiser W, An Y, et al. Synergistic role of water and oxygen leads to degradation in formamidinium-based halide perovskites. J Am Chem Soc. 2023:jacs.3c05657. doi: 10.1021/jacs.3c05657

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