University of Cambridge and Cornell University Researchers have done ‘cradle-to-grave’ life cycle assessments of a variety of perovskite solar cell architectures, and found that substrates with conducting oxides and energy-intensive heating processes are the largest contributors to primary energy consumption, global warming potential and other types of impact.

The team therefore focus on these materials and processes when expanding to ‘cradle-to-cradle’ analyses with recycling as the end-of-life scenario. Their results revealed that recycling strategies can lead to a decrease of up to 72.6% in energy payback time and a reduction of 71.2% in greenhouse gas emission factor.

The best recycled module architecture can exhibit an extremely small energy payback time of 0.09 years and a greenhouse gas emission factor as low as 13.4 g CO2 equivalent per kWh; it therefore outcompetes all other rivals, including the market-leading silicon at 1.3–2.4 years and 22.1–38.1 g CO2 equivalent per kWh.

Finally, the team used sensitivity analyses to highlight the importance of prolonging device lifetime and to quantify the effects of uncertainty induced by the still immature manufacturing processes, changing operating conditions and individual differences for each module.

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