Researchers from the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), University of North Texas and University of Oklahoma have demonstrated that an ultrathin layer of silicon oxide layer can harden perovskite photovoltaics to protect it from critical stressors in space and on Earth.
Space has its own unique environmental challenges for solar cells, perovskite ones included. PSCs have to be resilient against such challenges as “radiation, atomic oxygen, vacuum, and high-temperature operation,” according to the study’s abstract.
The researchers found that a layer of silicon oxide just a micron thick would preserve the efficiency and increase the lifetime of perovskite solar cells in space. The study also found that moisture tolerance was improved.
Lead author, Ahmad Kirmani, said the silicon oxide layer could reduce the weight of conventional radiation barriers used for other solar cells by more than 99%, and that it serves as a first step toward designing lightweight and low-cost packaging for perovskites.
The researchers’ simulations and experiments revealed that the silicon oxide layer reduces radiation damage, so the lifetime of the protected solar cells used in Earth’s orbits and deep space would be increased from months to years.
Kirmani said: "Power conversion efficiency and operational stability of perovskite solar cells have been the two primary focus areas for the community so far. We have made a lot of progress, and I think we have come far to the point that we might be pretty close to hitting those targets needed for industrialization. However, to really enable this market entry, packaging is the next target".