Article last updated on: Jan 08, 2018
What are perovskite?

Perovskites are a class of materials that share a similar structure, which display a myriad of exciting properties like superconductivity, magnetoresistance and more. These easily synthesized materials are considered the future of solar cells, as their distinctive structure makes them perfect for enabling low-cost, efficient photovoltaics. They are also predicted to play a role in next-gen electric vehicle batteries, sensors, lasers and much more.

How does the PV market look today?

In general, Photovoltaic (PV) technologies can be viewed as divided into two main categories: wafer-based PV (also called 1st generation PVs) and thin-film cell PVs. Traditional crystalline silicon (c-Si) cells (both single crystalline silicon and multi-crystalline silicon) and gallium arsenide (GaAs) cells belong to the wafer-based PVs, with c-Si cells dominating the current PV market (about 90% market share) and GaAs exhibiting the highest efficiency.

Perovskite solar cell market image

Thin-film cells normally absorb light more efficiently than silicon, allowing the use of extremely thin films. Cadmium telluride (CdTe) technology has been successfully commercialized, with more than 20% cell efficiency and 17.5% module efficiency record and such cells currently hold about 5% of the total market. Other commercial thin-film technologies include hydrogenated amorphous silicon (a-Si:H) and copper indium gallium (di)selenide (CIGS) cells, taking approximately 2% market share each today. Copper zinc tin sulphide technology has been under R&D for years and will probably require some time until actual commercialization.

What is a perovskite solar cell?

An emerging thin-film PV class is being formed, also called 3rd generation PVs, which refers to PVs using technologies that have the potential to overcome current efficiency and performance limits or are based on novel materials. This 3rd generation of PVs includes DSSC, organic photovoltaic (OPV), quantum dot (QD) PV and perovskite PV.



A perovskite solar cell is a type of solar cell which includes a perovskite structured compound, most commonly a hybrid organic-inorganic lead or tin halide-based material, as the light-harvesting active layer. Perovskite materials such as methylammonium lead halides are cheap to produce and relatively simple to manufacture. Perovskites possess intrinsic properties like broad absorption spectrum, fast charge separation, long transport distance of electrons and holes, long carrier separation lifetime, and more, that make them very promising materials for solid-state solar cells.

Perovskite solar cell image

Perovskite solar cells are, without a doubt, the rising star in the field of photovoltaics. They are causing excitement within the solar power industry with their ability to absorb light across almost all visible wavelengths, exceptional power conversion efficiencies already exceeding 20% in the lab, and relative ease of fabrication. Perovskite solar cells still face several challenge, but much work is put into facing them and some companies, are already talking about commercializing them in the near future.

What are the advantages of Perovskite solar cells?

Put simply, perovskite solar cells aim to increase the efficiency and lower the cost of solar energy. Perovskite PVs indeed hold promise for high efficiencies, as well as low potential material & reduced processing costs. A big advantage perovskite PVs have over conventional solar technology is that they can react to various different wavelengths of light, which lets them convert more of the sunlight that reaches them into electricity.

Moreover, they offer flexibility, semi-transparency, tailored form factors, light-weight and more. Naturally, electronics designers and researchers are certain that such characteristics will open up many more applications for solar cells.

What is holding perovskite PVs back?

Despite its great potential, perovskite solar cell technology is still in the early stages of commercialization compared with other mature solar technologies as there are a number of concerns remaining.

One problem is their overall cost (for several reasons, mainly since currently the most common electrode material in perovskite solar cells is gold), and another is that cheaper perovskite solar cells have a short lifespan. Perovskite PVs also deteriorate rapidly in the presence of moisture and the decay products attack metal electrodes. Heavy encapsulation to protect perovskite can add to the cell cost and weight. Scaling up is another issue - reported high efficiency ratings have been achieved using small cells, which is great for lab testing, but too small to be used in an actual solar panel.

A major issue is toxicity - a substance called PbI is one of the breakdown products of perovskite. This is known to be toxic and there are concerns that it may be carcinogenic (although this is still an unproven point). Also, many perovskite cells use lead, a massive pollutant. Researchers are constantly seeking substitutions, and have already made working cells using tin instead. (with efficiency at only 6%, but improvements will surely follow).

What’s next?

While major challenges indeed exist, perovskite solar cells are still touted as the PV technology of the future, and much development work and research are put into making this a reality. Scientists and companies are working towards increasing efficiency and stability, prolonging lifetime and replacing toxic materials with safer ones. Researchers are also looking at the benefits of combining perovskites with other technologies, like silicon for example, to create what is referred to as “tandem cells”.

Commercial activity in the field of perovskite PV

In September 2015, Australia-based organic PV and perovskite solar cell (PSC) developer Dyesol declared a major breakthrough in perovskite stability for solar applications. Dyesol claims to have made a significant breakthrough on small perovskite solar cells, with “meaningful numbers” of 10% efficient strip cells exhibiting less than 10% relative degradation when exposed to continuous light soaking for over 1000 hours. Dyesol was also awarded a $0.5 million grant from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) to commercialize an innovative, very high efficiency perovskite solar cell.

Also in 2015, Saule Technologies signed an investment deal with Hideo Sawada, a Japanese investment company. Saule aims to combine perovskite solar cells with other currently available products, and this investment agreement came only a year after the company was launched.

Latest Perovskite Solar news

Research team develops a technique to prolong lifespan of perovskite solar cells

Researchers at Kaunas University of Technology (KTU), Lithuania, along with ones from Vilnius University and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Lausanne (EPFL), have uncovered one of the possible reasons behind the short lifespan of perovskite solar cells and have offered solutions. The scientists have found that hole transporting materials used in perovskite solar cells are reacting with one of the most popular additives, tert-butylpyridine, which has a negative impact on overall device performance.

Professor Vytautas Getautis from the KTU Faculty of Chemical Technology says that so far, no attention has been paid to the possible interaction between the elements of the solar cell. For the first time, KTU chemists have uncovered the chemical reaction between the components of the hole transporting layer composition – the semiconductor and the additive used to improve the performance of the solar cell.

Korver Corp. to develop high-efficiency Perovskite Silicon Tandem (PST) solar cells

Korver Corp. logo imageKorver Corp., an emerging solar and renewable energy company, has provided an update regarding the Company's new strategic direction in the solar energy sector. Korver has now decided to focus on its mission to develop high-efficiency commercially-manufactured Perovskite Silicon Tandem (PST) solar cells.

Mark Brown, President and CEO of Korver Corp., stated, "Our prior research has resulted in the development of highly efficient Perovskite Silicon Tandem solar cells. We plan to reach an efficiency mark of over 30% on a commercial scale by combining perovskite solar with the best silicon technologies on the market today and our own proprietary innovations. Currently, we are working towards scalability and commercial manufacturing of our PST solar cells that could change the way the world produces and consumes energy on a grand scale. We are excited to take the first mover advantage with the next big thing in solar energy."

The Graphene Handbook

EPFL and AMI teams develop a method to replace one of the least stable components in perovskite solar cells

Researchers at the Adolphe Merkle Institute in Fribourg and the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne have developed a new technique to replace one of the least stable components in perovskite solar cells, which could be a major step towards commercialization.

Perovskites are seen as promising thin-film solar-cell materials because they can absorb light over a broad range of solar spectrum wavelengths thanks to their tuneable bandgaps. Charge carriers (electrons and holes) can also diffuse through them quickly and over long lengths. The most efficient perovskite solar cells usually contain bromide and MA, which is thermally unstable. To overcome this problem, researchers tried replace MA with FA since it is not only more thermally stable but also has an optimal redshifted bandgap. Unfortunately, because of its large size, FA does distort the perovskite lattice and tends to produce a photoinactive “yellow” phase at room temperature. The other photoactive “black phase” can only be seen at high temperatures. However, the researchers in this new work have now found a way to stabilize the black phase of FA at room temperature.

Researchers identify carrier multiplication in perovskites

Researchers at UvA-IoP have shown that certain perovskites possess the desirable property of carrier multiplication – an effect that makes materials more efficient in converting light into electricity.

Research leaders Dr. Chris de Weerd and Dr. Leyre Gomez explain this property, which had so far not been shown to exist in perovskites. When semiconductors – in solar cells, for example – convert the energy of light into electricity, this is usually done one particle at a time: a single infalling photon results in a single excited electron (and the corresponding ‘hole’ where the electron used to be) that can carry an electrical current. However, in certain materials, if the infalling light is energetic enough, further electron-hole pairs can be excited as a result; it is this process that is known as carrier multiplication.

Researchers use supercomputer to predict the electrical and optical properties of layered hybrid organic-inorganic perovskites

Researchers at Duke University computationally predicted the electrical and optical properties of layered hybrid organic-inorganic perovskites (or HOIPs) - popular materials for light-based devices such as solar cells and light-emitting diodes (LEDs). The ability to build accurate models of these materials atom-by-atom will allow researchers to explore new material designs for next-generation devices.

Researchers use supercomputer to predict the electrical and optical properties of layered hybrid organic-inorganic perovskites image

“Ideally we would like to be able to manipulate the organic and inorganic components of these types of materials independently and create semiconductors with new, predictable properties,” said David Mitzi, Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science at Duke. “This study shows that we are able to match and explain the experimental properties of these materials through complex supercomputer simulations, which is quite exciting.”

NIPHO 2019 - Israel - Perovskite solar cells, photonics and optoelectronicsNIPHO 2019 - Israel - Perovskite solar cells, photonics and optoelectronics