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:

Bifacial perovskite solar cells could become more environmentally friendly than conventional crystalline silicon devices

Scientists from the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology and Michigan State, Toledo and Wisconsin universities have found bifacial perovskite PV cells have the potential to become more environmentally friendly than conventional crystalline silicon devices, due to their increased energy yield.



The scientists examined sites at Toledo, in Ohio and Golden, Colorado, to take account of high and low latitude and humidity conditions. The researchers analyzed the environmental impact of single-junction, bifacial perovskite cells with high and low bandgaps, and multi-junction devices of the same type with two-terminal (2T) and four-terminal (4T) structures. They quantified the life cycle energy production from the cells under real-world conditions and benefiting from diverse albedo environments including installation above sandstone, concrete, grass and snow.

Sustainable lead management system could solve toxicity issue and promote commercialization of PSCs

Scientists from the Korea Institute of Machinery and Materials, Kyungpook National University, Sungkyunkwan University, Sejong University and Yonsei University in Korea, in collaboration with Uppsala University in Sweden, Imperial College London and National Renewable Energy Laboratory in the U.S, recently devised a way to sustainably collect pollutants secreted from PSCs without sacrificing the panel itself. Using this new approach, the scientists were able to safely recycle 99.7% of lead in their samples.

Multi-step adsorption process for lead from PSCs image

In the study describing their work, the researchers explain that they're not the first to attempt to tackle this issue, but that previous approaches to adsorbing lead have been limited by the number of naturally occurring lead solvents.

Silver-based perovskites with anti-microbial properties could be useful in tissue engineering

A new study, led by Dr. Shayanti Mukherjee at the Australian Hudson Institute (a leading Australian translational medical research institute), has found that perovskites materials can have anti-microbial properties, without toxic side effects to human cells.

Perovkites may close the gap in tissue engineering image(A) process of perovskite synthesis; (B) preparation of electrospinning solution with perovskite. Image from Nanomaterials

Dr Mukherjee and her team, who already have a significant program researching new bio-degradable nanomeshes to revolutionize treatments for pelvic organ prolapse (POP), have shown for the first time that perovskites can be used as additives to engineer human tissue implants.

Peppermint oil and walnut aroma to enable HT material that prevents lead leakage in perovskite solar cells

Researchers at the Pohang University of Science & Technology (POSTECH) have developed eco-friendly-solvent processable hole transport polymers by using peppermint oil and walnut aroma food additives and the polymer can prevent lead leakage.

The POSTECH research team consisted of Prof. Taiho Park and Junwoo Lee, that developed Alkoxy-PTEG - hole transport polymers that could be dissolved in peppermint oil, by applying ethylene glycol side chains when producing perovskite solar cells. Also, the team confirmed that this polymer captured leaking lead in aging perovskite solar cells.

New lead sequestration technique could make for safer lead-based perovskite solar cells

Researchers at Northern Illinois University and the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Colorado have reported on a potential breakthrough in the development of hybrid perovskite solar cells.

Led by Tao Xu of NIU and Kai Zhu of NREL, the scientists have developed a technique to sequester the lead used to make perovskite solar cells and minimize potential toxic leakage by applying lead-absorbing films to the front and back of the solar cell.