While silicon wafer processing is at the heart of today's semiconductor industry, we at Waring Kona regularly discover new materials and new production models. If your business depends on semiconductors, it is critical to stay abreast of the latest developments in the field.

Perovskites are one of the most interesting developments in the solar industry right now. Wondering why companies think they can replace silicon solar panels? Wondering what challenges the material faces? Learn everything you need to know.

What is perovskite?

Perovskite refers to the crystal structure of a material. While the perovskite structure has many uses, for our purposes the most notable is that itcombinethe most favorable properties of conventional and organic semiconductors.

What are chalcogenides?

Many recent developments in the field of perovskite solar cells have focused specifically on chalcogenide perovskites. This begs the question: what are chalcogenides?

When the material is "Chalcogenide”, it contains group 16 elements (AKA chalcogens). List of chalcogensinclude

  • liver and gallbladder
  • sword
  • oxygen
  • sulfur
  • selenium
  • tellurium

Chalcogenide perovskites typically contain sulfur or selenium.

How solar panels are currently made

Currently on the market approximately95%of solar panels are made of silicon semiconductors. They do a great job offering the perfect combination of longevity, efficiency and price. Their affordability makes sense since silicon is one of the most common elements.

That said, other materials are already in use, mostly in experimental capabilities. These include:

  • Thin film solar cellsMore cost-effective, but they can't convert solar energy into energy the way silicon can.
  • quantum dotsA wider range of light can be collected than silicon, but they are less efficient at processing light.
  • Concentrated photovoltaicsMore efficient at harvesting sunlight, but not as cost-effective as silicon.

There was a time when thin-film solar cells were expected to outperform silicon cells, but innovation has brought silicon down considerably, making it the first choice for most businesses and homeowners.

Potential benefits and challenges of perovskites

benefit

Perovskite solar panels are more efficient than silicon solar cells, and researchers are still discovering the upper limit of this efficiency. Currently, the current record for perovskite panels is>25.5% efficiency. Some researchers currently speculate that they can achieve an efficiency of 31.3%.

They are also easier to produce, which makes them more affordable. While silicon is one of the most common elements, perovskites aremost common minerals, which means that the material is not an issue.

The manufacturing process itself is also simpler, leveraging technologies used by other industries. For example, one company is currently retrofitting a Kodak factory to produce perovskite solar thin films.

On the other hand, the production of silicon solar cells is a delicate process that requires minimizing pollutants as well as extreme temperatures.

challenge

The advantages of perovskites in solar cell production may make you wonder why they are not being used in more solar cells currently. There are two main problems with this material: trap state and lifetime.

Trap states occur when cells capture electrons and holes. This reduces the efficiency of the perovskite cell, while also causing it to degrade more quickly. Essentially, it negates the perovskite's advantage over silicon, while also highlighting its greatest weakness.

Quality Assurance TestingIt is important to ensure that perovskite cells do not suffer from trap states. Fortunately, the defects that cause trapped states can be detected with capacitive voltage analysis, which means that reliable manufacturers will be able to detect problems before they make it to market.

The longevity issue is serious. Early in the research, the lifetime of perovskites was measured in seconds. At this point, researchers can make perovskite cells that last for months, but that's still a very short time frame compared to silicon cells that can last for about 25 years.

While perovskite cells are unlikely to reach such lifespan levels, researchers still need to test the upper limit of the material to determine how long it can last. This will help the market decide whether it is worthwhile to trade off efficiency for more efficient cells that are easier to produce.

moving too fast

In addition to all the challenges that arise when using perovskites, there are concerns about the commercial implications of investing too much, too quickly, in perovskite cells.

Thin-film solar cells appear poised to take over the market until silicon solar cells significantly reduce costs. Companies that invest heavily in the former find themselves with products that few people want.

For this reason, some perovskite advocates stress how important it is to ensure the technology is ready before bringing it to market: Once all R&D issues are resolved, manufacturers can move forward with greater confidence.

The key for solar panel manufacturers is to respect this lesson while making sure they don't enter the market too late.

Perovskite/Silicon Tandem Solar Cells

The choice between using perovskites or silicon to make solar panels isn't as binary as it might seem. In fact, the highest solar cell efficiency is29.5%, which occurs when combining silicon and perovskites to make solar cells.

The upper limit of perovskite/silicon tandem cells is even higher than perovskite itself. While the researchers believe that perovskite cells have the potential to achieve efficiencies of 31.3 percent, they speculate that perovskite/silicon cells could be as efficient as 45 percent.

The future of perovskite solar cells

There are currently no perovskite solar cells on the market, but several companies are preparing to release commercial products starting in 2022. The Department of Energy is also investing $60 million to advance the technology.

Their simplicity and efficiency point to a future in which the solar panel industry is less dependent on silicon. Silicon seems unlikely to match the potential of perovskites, as it improves upon silicon in a number of ways.

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