Scientists unlock new ways to make solar panels more efficient and durable

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Scientists have made a big leap forward in creating better solar panels, promising to change the way we harness the sun’s energy.

They’re working with a special kind of material called perovskites, which could make solar panels not just cheaper and lighter but also flexible enough to be used almost anywhere—even on paper!

Right now, most solar panels are made from silicon, a material that’s good at turning sunlight into electricity but is bulky and expensive to produce.

There’s also another type called cadmium telluride, but like silicon, it has its drawbacks.

Enter perovskites: they’re catching up fast in efficiency, which means they’re getting just as good at capturing sunlight and turning it into electricity. However, they tend to break down much faster than their silicon counterparts, which can last for more than 20 years.

A team from MIT and other institutions has been digging into the tiny details of perovskites to figure out how to make them last longer and work better. Their findings, shared in the journal Nature Energy, could help solar panels reach new heights of efficiency and durability.

The secret lies in the nanoscale, or extremely small structures, of perovskite devices. The researchers found that by tweaking these tiny details, they could make the perovskites more efficient and slow down their degradation.

One key discovery is all about “passivation,” a fancy word for treating the perovskite’s surface to prevent it from breaking down.

This involves adding a special coating that fixes imperfections on the surface where the perovskite meets other materials. These imperfections can cause energy loss, but with the right coating, the team showed they could keep energy from slipping away.

They used a solution of something called hexylammonium bromide to create this coating. It’s a simple step that tackles two problems at once: it smooths over surface defects and helps prevent energy loss from the sunlight that’s been captured.

This might sound technical, but it’s a big deal for solar energy.

It means we’re getting closer to making perovskite solar panels that are not only efficient but also durable enough for real-world use. The efficiency of these panels is already impressive, sitting at about 24 to 26 percent, and with these new improvements, it could get even better.

The insights from this study could help scientists and engineers come up with even better materials for solar panels. There are lots of different perovskites and coatings to explore, so this is just the beginning. The goal is to make solar panels that are easy and cheap to produce, efficient, and long-lasting.

The researchers believe that perovskite solar panels could soon be a practical option for commercial use, adding a new tool to our renewable energy toolkit. This doesn’t mean we’ll stop using silicon solar panels, but rather that we’ll have more options for capturing solar energy in different settings.

In summary, this breakthrough is not just about making better solar panels; it’s about moving closer to a future where clean, renewable energy is more accessible and efficient than ever before.

The study could be found in the journal Nature Energy.