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Chinese Innovation Could Change the Solar Power Scene


A pair of Chinese researchers recently developed an incredibly efficient type of solar cell that could spark a revolution in the renewable energy sector.

A collaborative effort between professors Zhu Zonglong of the City University of Hong Kong and Li Zhongan of the Huazhong University of Science and Technology involves the use of perovskite solar cells which, when exposed to sunlight, converts raw solar energy into electricity. 

While the working principle is the same as that used in conventional photovoltaic (PV) panels, the use of perovskite as the primary material in the cells does so with greater efficiency and at a much lower cost as the inorganic material is relatively cheap and more readily available than most components used for the production of PV panels.

A Real Difference

Experiments involving the use of perovskite for the production of solar cells have gone on for quite some time now with promising results. However, the chemical stability of such cells has been called into question, along with their durability under high temperatures and prolonged exposure to the elements. Indeed, previous perovskite cell prototypes had a tendency to rapidly degrade on exposure to high temperatures, moisture, and oxygen.

According to the research team, their perovskite cell panels maintained an efficiency of around 90% even after operating for 1,200 hours at 65 degrees Celsius or 149 degrees Fahrenheit. The new cells also have an impressive power conversion efficiency (PCE) of around 25.6%. This is possible because the self-assembled monolayers (SAMs) used as each cell’s interfacial layer were designed with a three-dimensional structure, and then attached to a sheet of stabilized nickel oxide film. Doing so enhances the cell’s overall chemical and thermal stability while boosting its energy conversion features and its lifetime performance.

In an interview, Zhu also pointed out that the unique construction of the cells also makes them more cost-effective to produce, making them a viable alternative to traditional silicon-based solar cells in both price and efficiency.

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