Solar panels are likely one of our best tickets to escaping the suffocating grip of fossil fuels, but the fact remains that they are still highly flawed. Efficiency is low, they remain expensive for the average consumer, and the lifespan of the typical solar cell is between 25-30 years, which is not a timeframe that an energy grid can rely on.
Enter perovskites. This up-and-coming material has been hot on the heels of silicon by mimicking its properties, but offers lower costs, and flexibility, and is lighter weight. In the last few years, huge strides have been made in bringing perovskites to the mass market, but efficiency has still trailed silicon.
Now, Princeton University researchers have proved perovskite's critics wrong by creating the first perovskite solar cell with a commercial lifetime of around 30 years, beating the commercial threshold of 20 years.
They now hold the record for the longest lifespan perovskite solar cell, but the researchers aren’t interested in medals – instead, they care about what can be done next.
“We might have the record today,” Lynn Loo, co-author of the paper, in a statement.
“But someone else is going to come along with a better record tomorrow. The really exciting thing is that we now have a way to test these devices and know how they will perform in the long term.”
Their research was published in Science.
In the past, perovskites have been markedly held back by their frailty. This mineral is considered incredibly fragile, with low structural integrity and poor resistance to fracture. As such, long-term tests have not exactly been necessary – however, recent advances in technology have made perovskites last significantly longer.
The researchers state that as technology continues to improve, lifetime testing methods will be sorely needed to compare solar cells against each other. This is a significant advancement in not just perovskite solar cells, but testing of cells as a whole.
“These kinds of tests are going to be increasingly important,” Loo said.
“You can make the most efficient solar cells, but it won’t matter if they aren’t stable.”
It is hoped that perovskites can continue to improve to the same level as silicon, as the forging technique used to create the cells is significantly less energy-intensive than current techniques.
Though perovskites likely won’t replace silicon – instead, the tech will be used to increase the effectiveness of current solar cells, improving their overall characteristics in a more cost-effective way.