Joint research work between Chemnitz University of Technology and Technische Universität Dresden has gained better understanding of the ionic defect landscape in metal halide perovskites. The researchers were able to identify essential properties of the ions that make up these materials. The migration of the ions leads to the presence of defects in the material, which have a negative effect on the efficiency and stability of perovskite solar cells. The working groups found that the motion of all observed ions, despite their different properties (such as positive or negative charge), follows a common transport mechanism and also allows the assignment of defects and ions (known as the Meyer-Neldel rule).

Artistic representation of an ionic defect landscape in the perovskites imageArtistic representation of an ionic defect landscape in the perovskites. Image by TU Dresden

The advantageous properties of metal halide perovskites include their high light-harvesting capacity and their remarkable ability to efficiently convert solar energy into electrical energy. Another special feature of these materials is that both charge carriers and ions are mobile within them. While charge carrier transport is a fundamental process required for the photovoltaic operation of the solar cell, ionic defects and ion transport often have undesirable consequences on the performance of these devices. Despite significant progress in this field of research, many questions regarding the physics of ions in perovskite materials remain open. The team in this work aimed to gain a better understanding of these structures, and has succeeded in making a big step forward.

"Probing the ionic defect landscape of perovskite materials is not a simple task," says Sebastian Reichert, research assistant at the Chair of Optics and Photonics of Condensed Matter at Chemnitz University of Technology and lead author of the publication. "We needed to perform extensive spectroscopic characterization on perovskite samples in which the defects were intentionally introduced and their type and density were gradually tuned. Therefore, the expertise of both teams was invaluable," Reichert explains.

"One of the most important results of our study is the intricate interplay between the ionic and electronic landscapes in perovskite materials," adds Prof. Dr. Yana Vaynzof of TU Dresden, "By changing the density of the various ionic defects in perovskite materials, we observe that the built-in potential and the open-circuit voltage of the devices are affected.” This highlights that defect engineering is a powerful tool to enhance the performance of perovskite solar cells beyond the state of the art.

The joint study also found that all ionic defects meet the so-called Meyer-Neldel rule. "This is very exciting since it reveals fundamental information about the hopping processes of ions in perovskites," says Prof. Crsten Deibel of Chemnitz University of Technology. "We currently have two hypotheses regarding the origin of this observation and we plan to investigate those in our future studies."

Carsten Deibel's research group is a leader in the field of impedance and deep-level transient spectroscopy, powerful methods for the investigation of defects in semiconductor materials. The group of Yana Vaynzof developed a method to influence and control the type and density of defects in perovskite materials by intentionally modifying the stoichiometry of the solution from which they are deposited. These materials are then used to produce solar cells so that their spectroscopic characterization can be directly correlated to their photovoltaic performance.