Article last updated on: Nov 30, 2020

Perovskites are materials that share a crystal structure similar to the mineral called perovskite, which consists of calcium titanium oxide (CaTiO3).

Depending on which atoms/molecules are used in the structure, perovskites can possess an impressive array of interesting properties including superconductivity, ferroelectricity, charge ordering, spin dependent transport and much more. Perovskites therefore hold exciting opportunities for physicists, chemists and material scientists.

Lead-based perovskites have become key materials in photovoltaics research thanks to their facile solution processability and impressive performance. However, despite their great potential, a persistent threat on future use and commercialization is the issue of toxicity and lead-content.

Lead (and its oxide form) is highly hazardous to animals and humans. Hence, succeeding to develop lead-free perovskites that could be used instead of the lead-based ones is a much desired accomplishment. While producing lead-free perovskite materials is not very hard to do, and various candidates exist (Sn-based perovskites, for example) these tend to perform poorly compared to lead-based perovskite materials, and exhibit limited optoelectronic performance and stability. However, vigorous research is taking place and hopefully it will yield lead-free perovskites that can serve as a viable replacement to lead-based ones.

The latest Perovskite toxicity news:

Researchers analyze importance and feasibility of recycling perovskite solar cells

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.

New approach uses crown ethers to improve perovskite solar cell stability

Researchers from EPFL, Universität Tübingen and University of Fribourg, led by Professor Michael Grätzel at EPFL’s School of Basic Sciences, used a novel method with multimodal host-guest complexation to significantly improve the stability of perovskite solar cells while also reducing the release of lead into the environment. The strategy involves using a member of the crown ethers, a family of cyclic compounds whose ring-like atomic structure resembles a crown.

The researchers used the dibenzo-21-crown-7 in the fabrication of formamidinium lead iodide perovskite solar cells. They demonstrated the efficiency of this synergistic approach with cesium metal ions, for which the crown ether shows a strong affinity. Acting as a vehicle, the crown ether assembles at the perovskite film’s interface and delivers the cesium ions into its interior.

Researchers develop Sn-based perovskite material with a wide visible-light absorption band

Semiconductors that can exploit the omnipresent visible spectrum of light for different technological applications are highly sought after, but such semiconductors are often dexpensive and toxic. A group of scientists from Tokyo Institute of Technology and Kyushu University have collaborated to develop a low-cost and non-toxic narrow-gap semiconductor material with potential 'light-based' or photofunctional applications.

A cheaper perovskite-based semiconductor material that is free of toxic lead and can absorb a wide range of visible light with potential photofunctional applications image

Tin-containing oxide semiconductors are cheaper than most semiconductor materials, but their photofunctional applications are constrained by a wide optical band gap. The team of scientists, led by Dr. Kazuhiko Maeda, Associate Professor at the Department of Chemistry, Tokyo Institute of Technology, developed a perovskite-based semiconductor material that is free of toxic lead and can absorb a wide range of visible light.

Swansea team introduces a nontoxic, biodegradable, green alternative to harmful solvents used to make PSCs

Scientists from Swansea University have found that a non-toxic biodegradable solvent called GVL could remove a major barrier to the production of printed carbon perovskite solar cells.

A known barrier to the large-scale manufacture and commercialization of these cells is the solvents used to control crystallization of the perovskite during fabrication because they are made from toxic, unsustainable materials that are banned in many countries. Now, researchers at SPECIFIC Innovation and Knowledge Centre, Swansea University, have discovered that a non-toxic, biodegradable solvent called GVL (γ-Valerolactone) could replace these solvents without impacting cell performance.

NREL scientists assess health and environmental impacts of solvents for producing perovskite solar cells

Scientists at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) have investigated how to manufacture perovskite materials and solar technology with human health in mind.

Pathways for production of perovskite photovoltaics image

Newly published research points to the safest choices for solvents needed to make perovskite solar cells. Unlike silicon solar panels, which require an industrial process, perovskite solar panels can be made using chemicals and produced using a roll-to-roll printing method or spray coating. The process also costs less and takes less time than manufacturing silicon panels.