A widespread transition to solar energy will depend heavily on dependable, safe, and inexpensive technology like batteries for energy storage and solar cells for energy conversion. At Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, researchers are focused heavily on each part of that equation.
In analysis featured on April 24 in Advanced Functional Materials, a group of engineers, material scientists, and physicists demonstrated how a brand new material—a lead-free chalcogenide perovskite—that hadn’t previously been considered to be used in photovoltaic cells might provide a safer and simpler choice than others that are generally considered.
Organic-inorganic halide perovskites, a kind of crystalline mineral, have proven promise as a key component in solar cells; however, they’ve posed large challenges. Their unique properties are very efficient in converting energy from the sun into energy, and they are inexpensive than silicon, which has traditionally been used in this capacity.
Nevertheless, they’re unstable when they are exposed to moisture and daylight, lower in efficiency as they degrade, and they break down into lead and lead iodide—both are hazardous substances.
To overcome that hurdle, Koratkar and a team of researchers, which included Tushar Gupta, a doctoral student in mechanical engineering, demonstrated how a thin film of a lead-free chalcogenide perovskite, specifically barium zirconium sulfide (BaZrS3), could doubtlessly replace lead-containing perovskites for a lot safer.