Next-gen solar cells in development

Friday, 21 June, 2019


A team of researchers is investigating the use of phospherene, a nanomaterial made from phosphorus, in the next generation of perovskite solar cells (PSCs). With findings published in the journal Small Methods, the research team led by Professor Joseph Shapter has developed thin phosphorene nanosheets for low-temperature PSCs using the rapid shear stress of Flinders University’s vortex fluidic device (VFD).

Professor of Clean Technology Colin Raston, Dr Kasturi Vimalanathan and Dr Gibson from the Flinders Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology are part of the team looking to improve solar cell efficiency with alternative and improved solar cell materials and processing systems.

“Silicon is currently the standard for rooftop solar and other solar panels, but they take a lot of energy to produce,” said adjunct Prof. Shapter, now at University of Queensland (UQ). “They are not as sustainable as these newer options. Prof. Shapter is continuing the pioneering solar-cell research at the UQ with Dr Munkhbayar Batmunkh and Abdulaziz Bati.

“Phosphorene is an exciting material because it is a good conductor that will absorb visible light. In the past, most non-metallic materials would have one property but not both,” Prof. Shapter explained.

“We’ve found [an] exciting new way to convert exfoliated black phosphorus into phosphorene, which can help produce more efficient and also potentially cheaper solar cells,” Dr Gibson said.

“Our latest experiments have improved the potential of phosphene in solar cells, showing an extra efficiency of 2–3% in electricity production.”

Research into the large-scale production of high-quality 2D phosphorene — along with other future materials such as graphene — is underway to explore efficient and sustainable production, with the use of the VFD, near-infrared laser light pulses and even an industrial-scale microwave oven. The addition of different atoms to the matrix is also being investigated, which has generated promising results in catalysis, particularly in the area of water splitting to produce hydrogen and oxygen.

With the ability to artificially produce perovskite structures, and once production of the PSCs can be successfully upscaled, commercial viability is closer to being realised. Meanwhile, global research continues to investigate how to improve and optimise perovskite cell performance.

Image caption: University of Queensland research leaders Dr Munkhbayar Batmunkh and Dr Abdulaziz Bati, who are continuing research into improved solar cells. Image courtesy of Flinders University.

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