Monday, 16 Jul 2018

EPFL researchers achieve record 25.2% power efficiency for silicon combined with perovskite solar-cells

By combining the two materials EPFL researchers believe 30% efficiency is within reach and not too far away

epfl - scanning electron microscopy image shows silicon's pyramids covered with perovskite

11 Jun 2018 | Editor

Researchers from Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL)'s Photovoltaics Laboratory and the CSEM PV-center - have developed an economically competitive solution. They have integrated a perovskite cell directly on top of a standard silicon-based cell, obtaining a record efficiency of 25.2%.

Their production method is reported to show promise, because it would add only a few extra steps to the current silicon-cell production process, and the cost would be reasonable. Their research has been published in Nature Materials.

In the field of photovoltaic technologies, silicon-based solar cells make up 90% of the market. In terms of cost, stability and efficiency (20-22% for a typical solar cell on the market), they are well ahead of the competition.

However, after decades of research and investment, silicon-based solar cells are now close to their maximum theoretical efficiency. As a result, new concepts are required to achieve a long-term reduction in solar electricity prices and allow photovoltaic technology to become a more widely adopted way of generating power.

One solution is to place two different types of solar cells on top of each other to maximize the conversion of light rays into electrical power. These "double-junction" cells are being widely researched in the scientific community, but are expensive to make.

Perovskite's unique properties have prompted a great deal of research into its use in solar cells over the last few years. In the space of nine years, the efficiency of these cells has risen by a factor of six. Perovskite allows high conversion efficiency to be achieved at a potentially limited production cost.

Source: EPFL

In tandem cells, perovskite complements silicon: it converts blue and green light efficiently, compared to silicon which is better at converting red and infra-red light.

"By combining the two materials, we can maximize the use of the solar spectrum and increase the amount of power generated. The calculations and work we have done show that a 30% efficiency should soon be possible."

Florent Sahli and Jérémie Werner, Main authors of the report

However, creating an effective tandem structure by superposing the two materials is no easy task.

"Silicon's surface consists of a series of pyramids measuring around 5 microns, which trap light and prevent it from being reflected. However, the surface texture makes it hard to deposit a homogeneous film of perovskite."

Quentin Jeangros, Co-authored the paper

When the perovskite is deposited in liquid form, as it usually is, it accumulates in the valleys between the pyramids while leaving the peaks uncovered, leading to short circuits.

According to the report the researchers at EPFL and CSEM have gotten around that problem by using evaporation methods to form an inorganic base layer that fully covers the pyramids. That layer is porous, enabling it to retain the liquid organic solution that is then added using a thin-film deposition technique called spin-coating.

The researchers subsequently heat the substrate to a relatively low temperature of 150°C to crystallize a homogeneous film of perovskite on top of the silicon pyramids.

"Until now, the standard approach for making a perovskite/silicon tandem cell was to level off the pyramids of the silicon cell, which decreased its optical properties and therefore its performance, before depositing the perovskite cell on top of it. It also added steps to the manufacturing process."

Florent Sahli, Author

The new type of tandem cell is highly efficient and directly compatible with monocrystalline silicon-based technologies, which benefit from long-standing industrial expertise and are already being produced profitably.

"We are proposing to use equipment that is already in use, just adding a few specific stages. Manufacturers won't be adopting a whole new solar technology, but simply updating the production lines they are already using for silicon-based cells."

Christophe Ballif, Head of EPFL's Photovoltaics Laboratory and CSEM's PV-Center

At the moment, research is continuing in order to increase efficiency further and give the perovskite film more long-term stability. Although the team has made a breakthrough, there is still work to be done before their technology can be adopted commercially.

This research has been financed by Nano-Tera.ch's Synergy project, the Swiss Federal Office of Energy (grant SI/501072-01), the Swiss National Science Foundation through the Sinergia Episode project (CRSII5_171000) and the NRP70 Energy Turnaround PV2050 project (407040), and the European Union through the Horizon 2020 innovation and research program (CHEOPS project 653296).

Fully textured monolithic perovskite/silicon tandem solar cells with 25.2% power conversion efficiency

Florent Sahli | Jérémie Werner | Brett A. Kamino | Matthias Bräuninger | Raphaël Monnard | Bertrand Paviet-Salomon | Loris Barraud | Laura Ding | Juan J | Diaz Leon | Davide Sacchetto | Gianluca Cattaneo | Matthieu Despeisse | Mathieu Boccard | Sylvain Nicolay | Quentin Jeangros | Bjoern Niesen | Christophe Ballif

Nature Materials | Published: 11 June 2018 | http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41563-018-0115-4


Tandem devices combining perovskite and silicon solar cells are promising candidates to achieve power conversion efficiencies above 30% at reasonable costs. State-of-the-art monolithic two-terminal perovskite/silicon tandem devices have so far featured silicon bottom cells that are polished on their front side to be compatible with the perovskite fabrication process. This concession leads to higher potential production costs, higher reflection losses and non-ideal light trapping. To tackle this issue, we developed a top cell deposition process that achieves the conformal growth of multiple compounds with controlled optoelectronic properties directly on the micrometre-sized pyramids of textured monocrystalline silicon. Tandem devices featuring a silicon heterojunction cell and a nanocrystalline silicon recombination junction demonstrate a certified steady-state efficiency of 25.2%. Our optical design yields a current density of 19.5 mA cm−2 thanks to the silicon pyramidal texture and suggests a path for the realization of 30% monolithic perovskite/silicon tandem devices.


About Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL)

Source: Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL)

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