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Perovskite PV is an exciting new solar power technology. In 2009, the first report of a perovskite solar cell was published with an efficiency of just 3.9%. Just 10 years later, the record efficiencies surpassed 25% - comparable to conventional silicon technology following decades of research. Given the novelty of the technology, the rapid gains in efficiency are impressive; however, high efficiency is not the only promising attribute. Perovskite solar modules are significantly lighter than conventional silicon modules and can even be fabricated on flexible lightweight substrates. Versatility in module design makes them well-suited to a wide range of emerging applications such as self-powered electronics and Internet of Things devices. The new report published by IDTechEx, "Perovskite Photovoltaics 2023-2033", explores the commercialization potential of perovskite PV and identify the challenges remaining.
What is perovskite PV?
Perovskites refer to a family of materials with a specific material structure. The class of perovskites used in photovoltaics (PV) have a unique combination of electronic and optical properties that make it extremely well-suited to PV technology. Perovskite PV can provide similarly high-power density as silicon PV at lower cost, a fraction of the weight, and with a simpler manufacturing process. It can also be combined with silicon to create tandem cell architectures that can surpass the efficiency limits of single junction solar cells.
Efficiency gains dampened by stability concerns
Despite the demonstration of high-efficiency perovskite modules, commercial adoption has been inhibited by concerns over long-term stability. Instability has a severely damaging effect on the electronic and optical properties of the module. There exist several sources of degradation that impact the stability and longevity of a perovskite module. These can be divided into two categories – intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic instability is caused by defects and the migration of ions through the cell layers. Extrinsic instability is a result of contamination from the atmosphere, such as heat, moisture, oxygen, and UV radiation.
How can the stability challenge be resolved? There are two methods. The first is to encapsulate the cell to prevent the ingress of environmental elements. The transmittance rates of oxygen and water must be extremely low, and the encapsulant material must be optically transparent to visible light and ideally non-transparent to UV light. In the IDTechEx report, "Perovskite Photovoltaics 2023-2033", different conventional and emerging encapsulation methods are identified and benchmarked by their suitability. The second method involves tuning the perovskite's chemical composition to improve the resistance of the material. As the saying goes, nothing good comes for free. Modifying the chemical composition can improve the stability of the solar cell but may impact other properties such as efficiency and absorption spectrum. Encapsulation techniques and material engineering are crucial to preventing the degradation of the perovskite film. Solving these high-value problems is a compelling commercial opportunity.
Progress and Route to Commercialization
Resolving perovskite PV stability issues is challenging, with many strategies bringing performance trade-offs or extra costs. Nevertheless, the field has come a long way in its understanding of degradation mechanisms, and substantial progress has been made. Advancements in stabilizing perovskite solar cells have helped to transition the technology from academia to industry. Several companies, such as Oxford PV and Saule Technologies, are poised to enter the unestablished perovskite PV market within the next 2-3 years, with pilot studies and trials currently in progress.