A perovskite solar cell with the dual benefits of being both highly efficient and highly stable has been constructed by researchers at the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).

The breakthrough, published in the journal Nature on 1 September 2022, overcomes a prior conundrum whereby perovskite cells become more inefficient with increasing stability.

“Some people can demonstrate perovskites with high stability, but efficiency is lower,” said Kai Zhu, one of authors, upon publication of the research. “You ought to have high efficiency and high stability simultaneously. That is challenging.”

Perovskites, an alternative material to the silicon wafers used in conventional solar panels, have a special crystalline structure that greatly increases their efficiency in converting solar photons into electricity. Perovskite solar cells have the potential to be an affordable, high-efficiency alternative to conventional silicon solar panels in the future.

The latest scientific breakthrough was enabled by a “unique architectural structure” and the addition of an electric field to the perovskite’s surface, said the NREL, which worked in collaboration with scientists from the University of Toledo, the University of Colorado, Boulder, and the University of California, San Diego.

The researchers generated a record-high efficiency of 24% while remaining stable under standard (1 sun) illumination of 1kW/m2. The highly efficient cell also retained 87% of its original efficiency after 2,400 hours of operation at 55°C.

The research was funded by the DOE’s Center for Hybrid Organic-Inorganic Semiconductors for Energy and Solar Energy Technologies Office.