Arizona State University researchers receives funding to promote standards for reliability of perovskite solar cell

An assistant professor at Arizona State University named Nick Rolston has received a 2024 National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER) Award to develop standards for perovskite solar panel reliability and longevity.

As silicon solar panels have been around for decades, standards to build high-quality panels are well established after years of research and testing. However, there are no such tests or standards for perovskite panels. As a family of materials with different properties than silicon, perovskites exhibit much different behavior. Many designs developed to date degrade quickly, dropping to 80% of their original efficiency — the standard for replacement — after a year or less.


To alleviate perovskite solar panels’ rapid decline in function, Rolston, a faculty member in the School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering, part of the Fulton Schools, aims to develop a standard for a series of lab tests that deduce which environmental factors are destabilizing the panels and quantify the degradation that occurs due to each factor.

“We want to find out within 25 days or 25 hours, ideally, if something is going to be long-lasting,” he says. “What are some tests we can do in the lab that take hours, days or weeks at most, that will predict the types of failures that would exist on the timeline of years or decades?”

To determine the perovskite solar panels’ degradation causes, Rolston and the students in his lab will determine which combinations of tests to put the panels through simultaneously.

“We can rip apart a material and see how much energy that takes,” he says. “But in real life, there are going to be different temperatures, sunlight and maybe hail and wind. We’re really trying to understand the synergistic effects of how mechanical properties interplay with environmental effects to create damage together.”

For example, a fracture test, which measures the force required to break a panel and creates the types of delamination that can occur after years of exposure in the field, can be combined with a test inside a chamber that rapidly heats and cools to mimic years of seasonal temperature swings. Together, the tests provide a more comprehensive assessment of a panel’s durability.

To complete the tests, Rolston will conduct work in his lab and the ASU Core Research Facilities, including the Solar Fab, Advanced Electronics and Photonics and Eyring Materials Center facilities.

Rolston will receive panel designs to test from an array of industry collaborators, including First Solar and ASU spinout company Beyond Silicon, supplying a variety of perovskite panel designs for testing.

In addition to the research component of the work, the CAREER Award funds workforce development and education efforts. Rolston’s plans include outreach to recruit women and Indigenous students from community colleges and tribal schools to attend ASU to conduct perovskite solar panel research.

“I was motivated to do this because, in the solar industry, over 90% of the executives are male,” Rolston says. “In terms of Indigenous communities, a huge amount of previous energy transitions have occurred at their expense. You’ll hear a lot of examples of how tribal lands are very close to polluted areas or in places where they don’t have access to energy.”

To retain and support these groups and other first-year graduate students once they’re at ASU, Rolston’s plans include provisions for a mentorship program in which experienced students offer guidance to newer students.

Once the project is complete, Rolston’s larger goal is to leave a legacy of testing standards for materials beyond perovskites and even for overall solar panel testing.

“Maybe it will be something with materials for quantum computers or superconducting materials,” Rolston says. “There are going to be different considerations, but we are trying to lay out a path to use these types of methods more broadly and to inform the development of new technologies going forward.”

Posted: Jun 21,2024 by Roni Peleg