Adding a layer of ferrocene can produce highly stable and efficient perovskite solar cells. Image: University of Surrey.
Adding a layer of ferrocene can produce highly stable and efficient perovskite solar cells. Image: University of Surrey.

A material that has been heralded as the key to producing more efficient next-generation solar cells could soon be ready for mass production, thanks to a new method developed by researchers at the University of Surrey in the UK.

The Surrey team found that fusing perovskite materials with an organometallic compound called ferrocene (Fe(C5H5)2) dramatically increases the efficiency of perovskite-based solar cells. In a paper in Advanced Energy Materials, the team reported that this focus on the chemistry of solar panels, rather than looking at mechanical and electrical components, produced the intended breakthrough.

"Our research scales these perovskite cells to a minute level, focusing on the chemical compounds and their specific problems,” said Thomas Webb, a postgraduate research student at the University of Surrey and project lead. “For example, normal practice is to coat, or 'dope', cells in lithium, but lithium absorbs water, increasing energy deficiency over time.

"We discovered an element within organometallic chemistry called ferrocene that significantly improves efficiency and stabilizes the drop in energy that all solar panels have over time. Not to mention it is cheap to produce and solves the water absorption problem."

Perovskite materials are widely considered to be the natural successor to silicon in solar cells, because they are lightweight and far cheaper to produce. However, the promise of perovskite has yet to be realized because of the difficulty of replicating lab results in mass production.

"Silicon cells are efficient but costly to produce; perovskite materials are without a doubt the next generation of photovoltaic technologies,” said Wei Zhang from the University of Surrey and another project lead. “There is still a long way to go to ensure these can be implemented on a mass scale, but with these results, we are a generous step closer to making this a reality."

“This is a key development to advance this important new material system at a time when dependable renewable energy sources are of critical global importance,” said Stephen Sweeney, a professor at the University of Surrey and co-supervisor of the research. “This is also a very satisfying example of how interdisciplinary research and complementary expertise across the partner universities has led to a high impact outcome.”

This story is adapted from material from the University of Surrey, with editorial changes made by Materials Today. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent those of Elsevier. Link to original source.