Research undertaken at the University of Portsmouth could be vital in the development of a new material, perovskite, that could drastically increase solar energy performance.

Perovskite solar cells could drive power conversion efficiency by over 20%. However, the conundrum facing researchers is how to stop performance being affected by an issue caused by ion defects.

Perovskite contains several ion defects that move around during the course of the day. As the ion defects move, they cause issues among the internal electric environment of the perovskite.

How perovskite works

Perovskite absorbs light to create an electronic charge. It can also help in the extraction of an electronic charge before the charge is lost to a process known as recombination. Detrimental recombination can potentially occur at different locations in a solar energy cell. In some designs, it happens at the edges of the perovskite, usually where it comes into contact with adjacent materials called “transport layers”.

Solar energy charging breakthrough

However, the University of Plymouth researchers have recently developed a means of adjusting transport layers to encourage ion defects to suppress recombination. This leads to more efficient charging and extraction of energy, which ultimately means a larger proportion of the light energy falls on the surface of the perovskite solar cell.

While the research is promising, the next step will be for engineers to gain a greater understanding of how transport layers affect perovskite cell performance in detail. This will help in the development of solar equipment that obtains more power while minimising degradation.

Practical applications

This latest breakthrough has the potential to transform solar energy collection in areas which do not receive a lot of sunlight. It would mean greater solar energy production in countries like the UK, even in the winter months where sunlight is at its lowest.

The current government is committed to solar energy production, and any further technological developments involving perovskite are likely to be welcomed with open arms. New energy tariffs are being introduced in 2019 to encourage renewable energy generation, and such solar energy breakthroughs are painting a brighter picture for the green power industry.