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

Project ESPResSo will receive EU funding to bring PSCs out of the lab and into the market

Imec, the leading research hub focused on nanoelectronics, energy and digital technologies and partner in EnergyVille, has been named the coordinator of an ambitious 3-year European Union (EU) funded project called "ESPResSo" (Efficient Structures and Processes for Reliable Perovskite Solar Modules), that gathers known leaders in the field of perovskite PV technology to revolutionize Europe's photovoltaics (PV) industry.

Projject ESPResSo for perovskite solar cells image

The ESPResSo consortium has been granted over 5 Million by the European Union to overcome the limitations of today's state-of-the-art perovskite PV technology, bring perovskite solar cells to the next maturity level, and demonstrate their practical application.

SERIS, NTU and NRF to collaborate on 30% efficiency tandem solar cell development

The Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore (SERIS) at the National University of Singapore (NUS) has announced a new R&D goal to develop a commercially viable thin-film-on-silicon tandem solar cell with 30% conversion efficiencies.

SERIS researchers will collaborate with Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and Campus for Research Excellence and Technological Enterprise (CREATE) of NRF on both III-V and perovskite materials, while SERIS will develop optimized silicon bottom cells.

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Aalto team develops improved aging tests for perovskite-based solar cells

Researchers at Aalto University in Finland have designed a new, simplified method for testing solar cells based on perovskite and dye sensitized technologies for degradation. This presumably follows Aalto's findings from February 2018 regarding deficiencies in current aging tests performed on perovskite-based solar cells.

Aalto team suggests new perovskite solar cells aging tests image

The researchers explain that their fast, low threshold photography method could detect even slight disintegration in a perovskite structure, with more reliable results than optical measurement devices, and lower complexity and labor requirements than more commonly used x-ray crystallography.

A novel composite perovskite thin film enables high efficiency solar cells

A joint team of researchers led by Professor Federico Rosei at the Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS), and Dr. Riad Nechache from École de technologie supérieure (ÉTS), both located in Montreal, Canada, have developed a composite perovskite thin film made of two different inorganic oxide materials that significantly improves the performance of solar cells.

The team demonstrated a cell in which the open-circuit voltage and short-circuit photocurrent are tunable by varying the electrical resistance of the device, which in turn is controlled by externally applying voltage pulses. This provides an alternative way of achieving highly stable, high-efficiency conversion.

Greatcell Solar awarded €500,000 in EU Horizon 2020 project

Greatcell logo imageGreatcell Solar has been awarded €500,000 in a European Union Horizon 2020 project known as H2020-SGA-FET-GRAPHENE. The grant to Greatcell's application has occurred through its 100% Italian subsidiary, Greatcell Solar Italy, located in Rome.

The H2020 project is for the innovative development and the installation of a Perovskite Solar Cell (PSC) 10m2 array in the Greek island of Crete and aligns closely with Greatcell's existing technology development plan. Much of the work involved will investigate advanced technology for higher efficiencies, longer life and improved encapsulation of PSC enabled glass substrates, investigating in particular the usage of Graphene in PSC solar cells.