Next gen solar cells perform better when there’s a camera around

ARC Centre of Excellence in Exciton Science, Media releases

Full paper available here, read on for media release, photos, captions and background information.

Researchers find a simple way to detect tiny imperfections that affect performance. 

Perovskite solar cells bathed in blue light, and responding in infrared. Credit: Exciton Science

A literal “trick of the light” can detect imperfections in next-gen solar cells, boosting their efficiency to match that of existing silicon-based versions, researchers have found. 

The discovery opens a pathway to improved quality control for commercial production.

On small scales, perovskite solar cells – which promise cheap and abundant solar energy generation – are already almost as efficient as silicon ones. 

However, as scale increases the perovskite cells perform less well, because of nanoscale surface imperfections resulting from the way they are made.

As the number of unwanted tiny lumps and bumps grows, the amount of solar power generated per square centimetre drops off. 

Now, however, Australian researchers have come up with a solution – using a camera. 

In a paper published in the journal Nano Energy, first author Dr Kevin Rietwyk and his colleagues from Australia’s ARC Centre of Excellence in Exciton Science, Monash University, Wuhan University of Technology and CSIRO Energy, describe how critical imperfections invisible to the naked eye can be detected by shining blue light onto the cells and recording the infrared light that bounces back.

The technique employs a property of solar cells called “photoluminescence”.

This is the process by which an electron inside a molecule or semiconductor is briefly powered-up by an incoming photon. When the electron returns to its normal state, a photon is spat back out.

Microscale flaws alter the amount of infrared produced. Analysing how the extent of the light emitted from the solar cell varies under different operating conditions gives clues to how well the cell is functioning. 

“Using this technique, we can rapidly identify a whole range of imperfections,” said Dr Rietwyk, an Exciton Science researcher based at Monash University.

“We can then figure out if there are enough of them to cause a problem and, if so, adjust the manufacturing process to fix it. It makes for a very effective quality control method.” 

Equivalent checking methods are common in silicon cell manufacture. By employing an innovative light modulation, Dr Rietwyk and colleagues have designed a new approach that rises to the challenges posed by next-gen cells – opening a pathway to a scalable and potentially commercial device.

Senior author Professor Udo Bach, also of Exciton Science and Monash University, said the team had performed successful test runs on batches of small research cells. The technology, he explained, will be simple to scale up and commercialise. 

“This research shows clearly that the performance of perovskite solar cell devices is influenced by the number of small imperfections in the cells themselves,” he said. 

“Using light modulation to find these flaws is a quick and robust way to solve the problem – and one that should work on any level of production.” 

Dr Noel Duffy from CSIRO Energy in Melbourne was joint senior author.

Dr Rietwyk and Professor Bach are based at Monash University, Australia, as are co-authors Boer Tan, Adam Surmiak, Jianfeng Lu, David McMeekin and Sonia Raga. Dr Lu also holds a position at Wuhan University of Technology in China.


Contacts 

All Melbourne-based, UTC +10.

First author: Kevin Rietwyk: kevin.rietwyk@monash.edu; +61 413 284 850

Senior author: Udo Bach: udo.bach@monash.edu   +61 434 578 315

Iain Strachan, ARC Centre of Excellence in Exciton Science: iain.strachan@unimelb.edu.au; +61 476 992 487

Andrew Masterson, Science in Public: andrew@scienceinpublic.com.au; +61 488 777 179

Images

Caption: Perovskite solar cells bathed in blue light, and responding in infrared.
Credit: Exciton Science
Caption: Perovskite solar cells bathed in blue light, and responding in infrared.
Credit: Exciton Science
Caption: Perovskite solar cells in alternating blue and infrared.
Credit: Exciton Science/Science in Public

Paper details 

Light intensity modulated photoluminescence for rapid series resistance mapping of perovskite solar cells
doi:10.1016/j.nanoen.2020.104755

Authors

Kevin J. Rietwyk1,2*, Boer Tan1,2, Adam Surmiak1,2, Jianfeng Lu2,3, David P. McMeekin,1,2 Sonia R. Raga1,2, Noel Duffy4, Udo Bach1,2

  1. Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence in Exciton Science, Department of Chemical Engineering, Monash University, Clayton, Victoria 3800, Australia
  2. Department of Chemical Engineering, Monash University, Clayton, Victoria 3800, Australia
  3. State Key Laboratory of Advanced Technology for Materials Synthesis and Processing, Wuhan University of Technology, Wuhan 430070, China
  4. CSIRO Energy Laboratories, Clayton, Victoria 3168, Australia

More about the ARC Centre of Excellence in Exciton Science:

The Centre of Excellence in Exciton Science is funded by the Australian Research Council to bring together researchers and industry to discover new ways to source and use energy. The Centre is a collaboration between Australian universities and international partners to research better ways to manipulate the way light energy is absorbed, transported and transformed in advanced molecular materials. It works with industry partners to find innovative solutions for renewable energy in solar energy conversion, energy-efficient lighting and displays, security labelling and optical sensor platforms for defence. 

https://excitonscience.com/