Perovskite, Potential Solar Cell Material Unsuited for Real-World Use

By Becky Oskin

Solar cells made from perovskites have sparked great excitement in recent years because the crystalline compounds boast low production costs and high energy efficiencies. Now UC Davis scientists have found that some promising compounds — the hybrid lead halide perovskites — are chemically unstable and may be unsuited for solar cells.

“We have proven these materials are highly unlikely to function on your rooftop for years,” said Alexandra Navrotsky, interdisciplinary professor of ceramic, earth, and environmental materials chemistry at UC Davis and director of the Nanomaterials in the Environment, Agriculture, and Technology (NEAT) organized research unit.

Lead halide perovskites have been touted as a new type of solar cell, but break down in heat and sunlight. (Image By Christopher Eames et al. [CC BY 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Lead halide perovskites have been touted as a new type of solar cell, but break down in heat and sunlight. (Image By Christopher Eames et al. [CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons]

Perovskites include several types of compounds, all of which share the same crystal structure. They are considered promising solar cell materials for their low cost and ability to efficiently convert sunlight into electricity. But the new UC Davis study suggests hybrid lead halide perovskites will work poorly in solar cells because the materials lack intrinsic thermodynamic stability. This means the hybrid lead halide perovskites will spontaneously decompose to inactive products in a short time, relative to the several years of expected lifespan on a roof.

Breakdown in heat, sunlight, humidity
Heat, sunlight and humidity accelerate the decomposition, but  hybrid perovskites breakdown even without this exposure, the study reports.

The findings were published this week (beginning June 27) in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Other co-authors include UC Davis postdoctoral scholars G.P. Nagabhushana, the study’s lead author, and Radha Shivaramaiah. The perovskite compounds were analyzed at Peter A. Rock Thermochemistry Laboratory at UC Davis, which has unique experimental capabilities for determining the thermochemical properties of inorganic and hybrid materials.

Funding was provided by the U.S. Department of Energy.

More information: Read the paper here.

Becky Oskin writes for the Division of Mathematical and Physical Sciences, College of Letters and Science. Follow her on Twitter @beckyoskin.

2 responses to “Perovskite, Potential Solar Cell Material Unsuited for Real-World Use

  1. Many groups think perovskite solar cells are unstable but we believe they are quite stable under light and heat soaking conditions with right combination of materials!

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