Most solar cells today are made with refined silicon that turns sunlight into clean electricity. Unfortunately, the process of refining silicon is far from clean, requiring vast amounts of energy from carbon-emitting power plants.
For a greener alternative to silicon, researchers have focused on thin-film perovskites – low-cost, flexible solar cells that can be produced with minimal energy and virtually no CO2 emissions.
While perovskite solar cells are promising, significant challenges need to be addressed before they can become commonplace, not least of which is their inherent instability, which makes manufacturing them at scale difficult.
“Perovskite solar technology is at a crossroads between commercialization and flimflammery,” said Stanford University postdoctoral scholar Nick Rolston. “Millions of dollars are being poured into startups. But I strongly believe that in the next three years, if there isn’t a breakthrough that extends cell lifetimes, that money will start to dry up.”
That’s why a new perovskite manufacturing process developed at Stanford is so exciting, Rolston said. In a new study, published in the Nov. 25 issue of the journal Joule, he and his colleagues demonstrate an ultrafast way to produce stable perovskite cells and assemble them into solar modules that could power devices, buildings and even the electricity grid.
Co-author Nicolas Rolston is a 2019 Lieberman Fellow.