A research team at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) and Sungkyunkwan University developed a perovskite-based solar cell that is semi-transparent, highly efficient and functions very effectively as a thermal-mirror.

The team has developed a top transparent electrode (TTE) that works well with perovskite solar cells. In most cases, a key to success in realizing semi-transparent solar cells is to find a TTE that is compatible with a given photoactive material system, which is also the case for perovskite solar cells. The proposed TTE is based on a multilayer stack consisting of a metal film sandwiched between a high refractive-index (high-index) layer and an interfacial buffer layer. This TTE, placed as a top-most layer, can be prepared without damaging ingredients used in perovskite solar cells.

Unlike conventional transparent electrodes focusing only on transmitting visible light, this novel TTE plays the dual role of passing through visible light while reflecting infrared rays. The semi-transparent solar cells made with the TTEs exhibited average power conversion efficiency as high as 13.3% with 85.5% infrared rejection.

The team believes that if the semi-transparent perovskite solar cells are scaled up for practical applications, they can be used in solar windows for buildings and automobiles, which not only generate electrical energy but also enable the smart heat management for indoor environments, thereby utilizing solar energy more efficiently and effectively.

The team designed the transparent electrode (TE) stack in three layers: A thin-film of silver (Ag) is placed in between the bottom interfacial layer of molybdenum trioxide (MoO3) and the top high-index dielectric layer of zinc sulfide (ZnS). Such a tri-layer approach has been known as a means to increase the overall visible-light transmittance of metallic thin films via index matching technique, which is essentially the same technique used for anti-reflection coating of glasses except that the present case involves a metallic layer.

Traditionally, when a TE is based on a metal film, such as Ag, the film should be extremely thin, to obtain transparency and, accordingly, to transmit visible light. However, the team took a different approach in this research. They made the Ag TE two or three times thicker (12-24 nm) than conventional metal films and, as a result, it reflected more infrared light. The high refractive index of the ZnS layer plays an essential role in keeping the visible light transmittance of the proposed TTE high even with the relatively thick Ag film when its thickness is carefully optimized for maximal destructive interference, leading to low reflectance (and thus high transmittance) within its visible light range.