Rice lab finds 2D perovskite compound has the right stuff to challenge bulkier products.
Rice University engineers have achieved a new benchmark in the design of atomically thin solar cells made of semiconducting perovskites, boosting their efficiency while retaining their ability to stand up to the environment.
The lab of Aditya Mohite of Rice’s George R. Brown School of Engineering discovered that sunlight itself contracts the space between atomic layers in 2D perovskites enough to improve the material’s photovoltaic efficiency by up to 18%, an astounding leap in a field where progress is often measured in fractions of a percent.
“In 10 years, the efficiencies of perovskites have skyrocketed from about 3% to over 25%,” Mohite said. “Other semiconductors have taken about 60 years to get there. That’s why we’re so excited.”
The research appears in Nature Nanotechnology.
Perovskites are compounds that have cubelike crystal lattices and are highly efficient light harvesters. Their potential has been known for years, but they present a conundrum: They’re good at converting sunlight into energy, but sunlight and moisture degrade them.
“A solar cell technology is expected to work for 20 to 25 years,” said Mohite, an associate professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering and of materials science and nanoengineering. “We’ve been working for many years and continue to work with bulk perovskites that are very efficient but not as stable. In contrast, 2D perovskites have tremendous stability but are not efficient enough to put on a roof.
“The big issue has been to make them efficient without compromising the stability,” he said.
The Rice engineers and their collaborators at Purdue and Northwestern universities, U.S. Department of Energy national laboratories Los Alamos, Argonne and Brookhaven and the Institute of Electronics and Digital Technologies (INSA) in Rennes, France, discovered that in certain 2D perovskites, sunlight effectively shrinks the space between the atoms, improving their ability to carry a current.
“We find that as you light the material, you kind of squeeze it like a sponge and bring the layers together to enhance the charge transport in that direction,” Mohite said. The researchers found placing a layer of organic cations between the iodide on top and lead on the bottom enhanced interactions between the layers.
“This work has significant implications for studying excited states and quasiparticles in which a positive charge lies on one layer and the negative charge lies on the other and they can talk to each other,” Mohite said. “These are called excitons, which may have unique properties.
“This effect has given us the opportunity to understand and tailor these fundamental light-matter interactions without creating complex heterostructures like stacked 2D transition metal dichalcogenides,” he said.
Experiments were confirmed by computer models by colleagues in France. “This study offered a unique opportunity to combine state of the art ab initio simulation techniques, material investigations using large scale national …….