Researchers at the Swiss EPFL are working on developing a perovskite-based material that can convert light and X-rays into electricity and holds great potential for use in photovoltaics as well as space exploration.

The scientists have chosen to use methylammonium lead iodide (CH3NH3PbI3), a material already used in conventional perovskite solar cells, where it harvests visible-light photons that are then converted into electricity. They fabricated single crystals of methylammonium lead iodide and tested them on photocurrent generation while irradiating them with X-rays, where they found 75% charge-collection efficiency in millimeter-sized crystals. This high-efficiency current conversion for X-ray radiation also matched the material’s high X-ray absorption coefficient.

In terms of degradation, the material’s performance decreased less than 20% when hit with X-ray doses similar to those in space, which may represent very promising stability for high-radiation doses. According to the researchers, the combination of these features can lead to fabricating photovoltaic cells that can harvest visible, X-ray, and even gamma-ray photons. Such technology can have far-reaching advantages for space exploration, as well as converting waste radiation in nuclear powerplants.