Researchers suggest ways to produce active and stable perovskite oxide-based OER materials

A study led by scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory has shown a shape-shifting quality in perovskite oxides that could be promising for speeding up the oxygen evolution reaction (OER) that is vital for hydrogen production (and a variety of other chemical processes). The research shows that perovskite oxides could be used to design new materials for making renewable fuels and also for storing energy.

New design rules for active and stable perovskite oxide-based OER materials imageSurface evolution of a lanthanum cobalt oxide perovskite. Image credit: ANL

Perovskite oxides are less expensive than precious metals such as iridium or ruthenium that also promote OER. But perovskite oxides are not as active (in other words, efficient at accelerating the OER) as these metals, and they tend to slowly degrade.

U.S DoE sets ambitious goals to cut solar costs and invests $128 Million in solar initiatives and technologies

The U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) recently announced an ambitious new target to cut the cost of solar energy by 60% within the next ten years, in addition to nearly $128 million in funding to lower costs, improve performance, and speed the deployment of solar energy technologies.

To that end, the DoE has allocated funding through its Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO), to support advancing two materials used to make solar cells: perovskites and cadmium telluride (CdTe) thin films.

First visualization of polarons forming in perovskite materials

Researchers at the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford University have used the lab’s X-ray laser to watch and directly measure the formation of polarons for the first time. Polarons are fleeting distortions in a material’s atomic lattice that form around a moving electron in a few trillionths of a second, then quickly disappear. Despite their transient nature, they do affect a material’s behavior, and may even be the reason that solar cells made with lead hybrid perovskites achieve extraordinarily high efficiencies in the lab.

Visualization of dynamic polaronic strain fields in hybrid lead halide perovskites imagePolaron “bubbles” of distortion form around charge carriers – electrons and holes that have been liberated by pulses of light – which are shown as bright spots here. Image by SLAC

Perovskite materials are famously complex and hard to understand, according to Aaron Lindenberg, an investigator with the Stanford Institute for Materials and Energy Sciences (SIMES) at SLAC and associate professor at Stanford who led the research. While scientists find them exciting because they are both efficient and easy to make, raising the possibility that they could make solar cells cheaper than today’s silicon cells, they are also highly unstable, break down when exposed to air and contain lead that has to be kept out of the environment.

Researchers swap isotopes to improve perovskite solar cell efficiency

Researchers at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, have led a study into perovskite solar cells that has revealed a way to slow phonons, the waves that transport heat.

The discovery has the potential to improve hot-carrier solar cells, which convert sunlight to electricity more efficiently than conventional solar cells by harnessing photogenerated charge carriers before they lose energy to heat.

DoE announces $20 Million to advance perovskite solar technologies

The U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) recently announced $20 million in funding to advance perovskite photovoltaic technologies. To be competitive in the marketplace, perovskite’s long-term durability must be tested and verified, which is the aim of this funding opportunity through DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE).

“Perovskites are a promising solar technology that could help us reach the next level of innovative and efficient solar power,” said Deputy Secretary of Energy Mark W. Menezes. “Our goal is to further advance this technology here in the United States. The research and development supported by this $20 million investment will help us better understand how perovskite solar cells, which can be manufactured quickly, can further this mission.”