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What are perovskite solar cells and how will they change solar industry

Solar panels as we know them are about to change. Perovskite solar panels will take over the market as a more efficient and even cheaper alternative to crystalline cells. There are quite a few problems engineers have to solve first though. In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about perovskite solar cells.

Perovskite solar cells in a nutshell: Moving away from silicon


chemical formula of perovskite mineral. Many perovskites are made from different elements though

Perovskites are a group of materials that have a specific crystal structure, which absorb light well. Perovskite solar cells are a new type of solar technology that uses perovskites to capture sunlight and turn it into electricity. It is still in the development stage, but its advantages already start to shine through.

Perovskite solar cells can be made more cheaply and easily than traditional silicon-based solar cells. They can be printed onto flexible surfaces, which means they can added to portable devices or even clothing. They also have the potential to be more efficient. Monocrystalline solar cells which are the most widespread type reach efficiency over 25%. Perovskite solar cells reach 30%. In theory, you would harvest 20-30% more energy from the same area with perovskite solar panels than with monocrystalline PV modules. 

There are many types of perovskite solar cells and each one has its advantages and drawbacks. For instance, Quantum Dot perovskite solar cells give the option to adjust the look of a cell but are hard to make. Inverted perovskite solar cells are more stable than others and easier to manufacture on flexible substrates. Tandem perovskite solar cells offer the best balance between efficiency, stability and ease of manufacturing.

Making of perovskite solar cells: You may try this at home

General structure of a perovskite solar cell

Traditional silicon solar cells require high-temperature processing. Perovskite solar cells can be manufactured at lower temperatures, reducing the amount of energy you need to make them. Since there are several types of perovskite cells, they all have their own specific structures. Here is how the process of making a generic perovskite cell looks in a nutshell:

  1. Preparing the substrate. Common substrates for perovskite cells include glass, plastic, or metal foils. These substrates are usually coated with a conductive material like indium tin oxide (ITO) to serve as the bottom electrode.

  2. Depositing perovskites. The perovskite material, usually in the form of a precursor solution, is deposited onto the substrate. This can be done through spin-coating, dip-coating, spray-coating, or inkjet printing. The precursor solution contains organic and inorganic salts that form the perovskite structure upon drying. After deposition, the perovskite layer is heated (annealed) to form the necessary crystalline structure.

  3. Adding charge transport layers. They help to efficiently extract and transport electrons and holes generated by the absorbed light. Common materials for these layers include titanium dioxide (TiO2) for the electron transport layer and spiro-OMeTAD for the hole transport layer.

  4. Depositing a top electrode and encapsulating. It is usually made of gold or silver. This electrode allows for the collection of electrical current generated by the cell. The cell then has to be encapsulated to prevent moisture and air from coming in.

Since you don’t need high temperatures and deposition methods for perovskites are often solution-based, some enthusiasts even try to make perovskite solar cells at home. This is risky though as some perovskite cells contain toxic lead. Besides, the efficiency of “homemade” perovskite cells never matches the lab numbers.

Advantages of perovskite solar cells: Higher efficiency, easier production

While there are several types of perovskite cells in research, they often share similar advantages over monocrystalline cells. Here are the main ones:

  • High efficiency. The efficiency of perovskite solar cells is 20-30% higher than the conversion rate of monocrystalline solar cells. The conversion rate of perovskite cell prototypes reaches 30% whereas the most efficient monocrystalline cells are around 25%.

  • Cheaper manufacturing. Perovskite solar cells can be produced using simpler and less energy-intensive manufacturing processes compared to silicon solar cells. The materials used to make them are cheaper and more abundant than those used in traditional solar cells.

  • Flexible and lightweight. Perovskite solar cells can be printed onto flexible substrates, allowing for a wide range of applications, such as solar covers, clothes, or sails. Because the substrate can be thin, the cells are lightweight, which is advantageous for applications like portable electronics or aerospace. The cells can even be made semi-transparent, which is useful for applications like solar windows that generate electricity while allowing light to pass through.

Perovskite solar cells' drawbacks: Instability and soft costs

The research for perovskite solar cells is ongoing. Before they are available for commercial use, engineers still have to solve quite a few problems. Here are some of them:

  • Instability. Perovskite cells degrade within months, days or even hours while silicon cells work fine for over 25 years. Experts say that the perovskite cells have to be made to last for at least 10 years to be competitive. They are also very vulnerable to moisture, oxygen, and heat, so the engineers will have to figure out how to insulate them properly. 

  • Toxicity. Many high-efficiency perovskites contain toxic lead which is a potential environmental and health problem. To solve this, manufacturers try to develop lead-free perovskites. 

  • Soft costs of solar. For perovskite solar panels to do well, they should become cheaper than alternatives. But silicon solar panels are already very cheap! Things like labor and permits drive up the cost of solar systems and that’s another problem that companies will have to try and solve.

Perovskite solar panels forecast: Coming soon

While there are already perovskite solar cell prototypes that perform better or worse, there was little news on solar panels from perovskite cells. While the reported efficiency of perovskite cells sounds impressive, we should keep in mind the PV module efficiency is always going to be lower. Efficiency is calculated based on the area and the power output. Unlike the cell, a panel has inactive parts such as a frame and space between cells. If the best perovskite cells show an efficiency of around 30%, the panels are going to be 27-28% efficient.

Efficiency = [Power output / (Panel area x 1000 W/m²)] x 100%

While many companies around the world are involved in perovskite research, the results of their work are usually classified. For this reason, it’s hard to evaluate exactly how close are the scientists to creating commercially viable cells and more importantly perovskite solar panels. Oxford PV lab and Hanwha Q CELLS, a German/Korean solar panels manufacturer, are among the leaders in perovskite research worldwide.

Ian Clover
Specialist Corporate Communications at Hanwha Q CELLS

We had a world record in tandem perovskites efficiency in 2023 and got close to 30% in lab conditions. We can't put a date for when this technology commercialized, but in the next couple of years, we hope to see tandem perovskites become the new standard bearer in the industry.

We are going to take a guess and say that the first perovskite solar panels for sale will appear on the market in 2026-2027. There is a possibility that the AI and machine learning revolution will speed up progress significantly though. You’ll be able to find perovskite panels at A1 SolarStore — subscribe to our newsletter at the bottom of the page and get news in your e-mail box.

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Andrey Gorichenski
Senior Editor

Andrey had been a news editor and freelance writer for a number of medias before joining A1SolarStore team. Climate change and its impact on people's lives has always been among his interests and it partially explains his degree in Philosophy and Ethics.

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