Researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology, Guwahati (IIT-G) have found a way to make solar panels more efficient, cheaper and recyclable — by stabilising hybrid perovskite-based solar or photovoltaic devices to produce electricity.

The research team was led by Parameswar K Iyer, Department of Chemistry and Centre for Nanotechnology and School for Health Science and Technology, IIT Guwahati.

Perovskite-based devices are considered heavily used semiconductor materials as they are affordable and easy to manufacture.

“The perovskite materials are extremely unstable towards ambient (humidity and oxygen) conditions that restrict their commercialisation,” the IIT-Guwahati said in a statement.

“Developing large-scale perovskite solar cells requires high-quality defect-free perovskite films with improved surface coverage. One of the most convenient ways to achieve this is through the incorporation of appropriate passivation molecules in the perovskite films,” said the statement.

The study was published in the American Chemical Society journal Chemistry of Materials.

“The most convenient way to harness the maximum potential of the perovskite active layer is to use a coating of an appropriate material so that it becomes ‘stable’ or less readily affected by the environment, in this case humidity and oxygen. The team managed to study the effect of a newly created polyelectrolyte (polymer with positive or negative charge) in increasing the stability of the perovskite films,” Iyer said.

The research results on perovskite solar cells appeared first in 2009. Though it is just over a decade old, it is challenging the efficiency and performance of inorganic solar cells, which is 6-7 decades old.

“Now, notable progress is being made in terms of stability of these devices,” he added.

He added that various government agencies in India, such as the Department of Science and Technology and NITI AAYOG, have initiated major research and development schemes to push research in perovskite solar cells so that renewable energy which is economical is accessible to the masses in the near future after learning about their breakthrough.

The newly developed version of the perovskite solar panels is yet in a proto-type form.

These devices can be manufactured at room temperature, making them cost-effective and more eco-friendly.

“We strongly believe that the processing cost will be at least one-tenth of the current solar panels, and with the larger production units, the cost can be further reduced,” he said.

Shreyas Garg, Programme Associate, CEEW Centre for Energy Finance said thinking recyclable perovskite cells will completely solve the PV waste problem is too far-fetched.

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