Breakthrough in 'Miracle Material' Gives Next-Gen Solar Power a Huge Boost

Perovskites, the miracle material, are paving the way towards efficient solar photovoltaics.
Fabienne Lang

The solar industry has just gone through a momentous moment: perovskites can be used in a way that enables cheaper and more efficient photovoltaics. 

Researchers at the University of Melbourne in Australia have resolved a long-standing challenge that prevented the widespread use of the widely acclaimed material, perovskite

The pathway for solar photovoltaics has taken a turn through this discovery, which was published in the journal Nature Materials on Monday.


From challenge to solution

Perovskites are found deep within Earth's mantle and have been known for their unprecedented potential to convert sunlight into electricity. Considered to be a "miracle material," the material has helped to improve its sunlight-to-energy efficiency from 3% to over 20%, as per the Independent'.

However, it was widely believed that another 10 years were needed before the material could be commonly used in commercial solar cells. 

The recent breakthrough by the researchers at the University of Melbourne and Exciton Science, however, sheds new light on the material as it could be widely used much more quickly. Interestingly, the team stumbled upon the information without looking for it in particular.

"We were performing a measurement, looking for something else, and then we came across this process that at the time seemed quite strange. However, we quickly realised it was an important observation," said Dr. Chris Hall from the University of Melbourne. 

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"What we found is that as you increase the excitation intensity, the local strains in the ionic lattice, which were the original cause of segregation, start to merge together. When this happens, the local deformations that drove segregation disappear," explained Dr. Stefano Bernardi from the University of Sydney, who also worked on the project.

"On a normal sunny day, the intensity is so low that these deformations are still localised. But if you find a way to increase the excitation above a certain threshold, for example by using a solar concentrator, then segregation disappears," he continued. 

The research is significant as researchers are now able to keep the optimal composition of elements within perovskites when they're exposed to sunlight.

More light simply needs to be focused on the perovskite solar cells for the material to retain its original composition. Nevertheless, the next step of the work is to find a way to create a device.