Charge The World: Fabrication of Perovskite Compound Solar Cell

By Justin Du
Intermediate Category (Grades 9-10)
Innovation | Engineering and Computer Science

Development of renewable energies, more specifically the exponential potential that solar energy brings, is in an imbalance with the ever urgent attention-needing crisis that is climate change and global warming. In the twelve years before global temperatures surpass the 1.5°C increase threshold, a solution must be found to alleviate the continuous outpour of greenhouse gases.

This two-year project aims to expand and develop a novel solar technology that utilizes perovskite compounds, an inexpensive and easily manufactured material. This first year was dedicated to learning the methods of cell production and functionality of solar technologies. Following the production of control cells, developments in fabricating fully transparent cells will be explored in the subsequent year. With the help of a mentor and laboratory space at 4D Labs, Simon Fraser University, a standard perovskite cell was created referencing and American-Korean-Chinese collaboration paper.

In the specific configuration, 5 layers are stacked on a glass substrate, each with its own function. They can be grouped into several categories: the electrodes (Ag, ITO), transport layers (SnO2, spiro-OMeTAD), and active layer (CH3NH3PBI3). The use of a graph digitizer allowed numerical values for graphs in the referenced paper to be extracted, which will be used for comparisons in the future. This methylammonium lead triiodide (MAI) cell was reported to reach a record power conversion efficiency of 17% and 20% with and without polymers, respectively in the referenced paper. Additionally, after testing and comparing, it was found that perovskite cells were more favored in terms of power output than silicon ones; they were both able to generate similar voltages, but the MAI cell performed at a much higher current.

Implementations of perovskite technologies are straightforward. If made transparent, these solar cells will be able to transform skyscrapers into “power towers”. Additionally, these technologies are very inexpensive to manufacture as well as simple to produce – one such 3 x 30 cm cell installed would cost around $3,000 – compared to the $4,000-$5,000 cost of a silicon panel that produces similar amounts of electricity. Because transparent cells only require active layers to be at where the sunlight will be concentrated in, costs are reduced while improving simplicity. Production of perovskite cells further bump up its advantages over other types of solar technologies – 4 out of the 5 layers listed above are deposited by spin coating on smaller substrates, but can be substituted for industrial grade deposition machines. This, as a result, allows the manufacturing process to be fully autonomous and reduces the amount of worker population needed, as well as the probability of human-made errors.

Perovskite cells, such as ones outlined and developed in this project, undoubtedly have the opportunity and potential to outgrow existing clean energies as well as cut down on fossil fuel demand. Because of the simplicity of its manufacture, inexpensive costs and proficient power output, these cells solve many problems that other types of solar cells will never answer. Perovskite cells and transparent cell varieties truly have the potential to charge the world.

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