Editorial Feature

Photovoltaic Materials for High-Efficiency Solar Cells: Recent Developments

Solar energy is central in the transition towards greener and more sustainable practices. The global shift towards sustainable energy has created a demand for advanced photovoltaic materials for high-efficiency solar cells. This article discusses the recent developments in photovoltaic materials for high-efficiency solar cells, specifically in 2023.

Photovoltaic Materials for High-Efficiency Solar Cells: Recent Developments

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Recent Developments

In 2023, numerous research studies exploring photovoltaic material enhancements for increased solar cell efficiency were published in several journals. Some of these notable studies are discussed below.

Advancing Photovoltaics with Micro-CPV

In a recent study published in June 2023, researchers addressed the challenges faced by concentrator photovoltaics (CPV), which employ high-efficiency multijunction solar cells and optics to concentrate sunlight for enhanced energy production. The study introduces novel micro-CPV, focused on miniaturizing solar cells and optical components to reduce costs. Micro-CPV aims to maintain high electrical efficiencies while lowering material volumes, utilizing new system architectures and high-throughput manufacturing methods.

The research emphasizes technological advances, synergies with industries like micro-light emitting diode display manufacturing, and assembly process developments to facilitate the commercial adoption of micro-CPV. This micro-scale approach enables innovative module architectures, such as integrated tracking and hybrid CPV/silicon PV systems, offering improved performance and cost-effectiveness for diverse applications like rooftop installations and space-constrained scenarios. The study underlines the potential of micro-CPV to contribute to low-cost, high-efficiency photovoltaics for widespread electricity generation.

Optimizing Perovskite Materials for Indoor Solar Efficiency

Another study, also published in June 2023 in the Journal Materials Today Communications, focused on advancing Indoor Perovskite Solar Cells (IPSCs) to power Internet of Things (IoT) devices efficiently. Leveraging the progress in Perovskite Solar Cells (PSCs) and the increasing demand for IoTs, the study employs Machine Learning (ML) to predict bandgaps of diverse perovskite compositions crucial for high-efficiency IPSCs. The ML model, termed the Bandgap Prediction Model (BPM), accurately forecasts perovskite bandgaps, allowing the identification of suitable materials for IPSCs.

The study evaluates the importance of key features affecting bandgaps through correlation matrix and SHAPley analysis. The chosen perovskite material, guided by the BPM, demonstrates exceptional performance with over 35 % efficiency under indoor illumination, showcasing the potential for developing highly efficient IPSCs for indoor applications. This approach (combining ML with simulation) streamlines the selection of perovskite compositions for sustainable and energy-efficient indoor environments.

Enhancing Efficiency in SHJ Solar Cells

In an additional study, researchers explored the impact of deposition temperature on hydrogenated intrinsic amorphous silicon ((i)a-Si:H() films for silicon heterojunction (SHJ) solar cells. They found that lower deposition temperatures (140–200 °C) resulted in less dense (i)a-Si:H films, hindering surface passivation capabilities. However, additional hydrogen plasma treatments (HPTs) significantly improved passivation qualities for lower temperature-deposited films.

The study identified an optimal trade-off between open-circuit voltage (VOC) and fill factor (FF) at 160–180 °C, yielding independently certified efficiencies of 23.71 %. Further enhancements, including an improved p-layer, led to an efficiency of 24.18 %, demonstrating the critical role of (i)a-Si:H optimization in achieving high-efficiency SHJ solar cells. The findings emphasize the need for excellent surface passivation and less-defective (i)a-Si:H bulk to optimize charge carrier collection.

Balancing Bromine for Photovoltaics

In another new study, researchers introduced a breakthrough approach to maximize the potential of brominated small molecule acceptors (SMAs) for organic solar cells (OSCs). Despite bromine's unique advantages in tuning energy levels and crystallinity, high-performance brominated SMAs were rare due to undesirable film morphologies.

The study tackled this challenge by strategically brominating central units (CH20, CH21, and CH22) rather than conventional end groups. This innovation enhanced intermolecular packing and crystallinity while mitigating steric hindrance issues. Remarkably, the PM6:CH22-based OSC achieved a record-breaking efficiency of 19.06 %, showcasing the great potential for achieving high-performance OSCs through precise bromination on CH-series SMAs.

The study emphasizes the delicate balance needed to maximize bromine's advantages and overcome its limitations, opening new avenues for organic photovoltaic advancements.

Green Solar Innovation

In an April 2023 study, researchers explored the quaternary compound copper manganese tin sulfide (Cu2MnSnS4) as a potential absorber semiconductor for thin film solar cells (TFSC). The study systematically investigated various parameters influencing the performance, such as active material thickness, doping concentration, defect density, working temperature, and metal contact.

The optimized solar cell configuration involved a Cu/ZnO:Al/i-ZnO/n-CdS/p-Cu2MnSnS4/Pt heterostructure. Initially achieving a photoconversion efficiency (PCE) of 25.43 %, subsequent enhancements were made by introducing a tin sulfide (SnS) back surface field (BSF) layer. This addition improved PCE to 31.4 %, showcasing the potential of Cu2MnSnS4 with SnS as an absorber and BSF, providing guidance for fabricating highly efficient solar cells. The study emphasizes the environmental and cost advantages of these materials compared to traditional options, marking a significant development in the field of solar energy.

Conclusion

Recent advancements in photovoltaic materials for high-efficiency solar cells highlight a promising trajectory for sustainable energy solutions. Micro-CPV introduces a novel approach, miniaturizing solar cells to enhance efficiency and reduce costs, paving the way for innovative module architectures. The study on indoor perovskite solar cells demonstrates the integration of machine learning for material selection, achieving exceptional efficiency for IoT devices. Optimization of (i)a-Si:H films in SHJ solar cells emphasizes the critical role of surface passivation in achieving efficiencies above 24 %.

The breakthrough approach of balancing bromine in small molecule acceptors showcases record-breaking efficiencies in organic solar cells, while the exploration of Cu2MnSnS4 indicates a potential absorber semiconductor with environmental and cost advantages. These developments collectively contribute towards a greener future.

More from AZoM: Nano Ceramics for Sustainable and Efficient Advanced Photovoltaic (PV) Solar Cells

References and Further Reading

Isha, A., Kowsar, A., Kuddus, A., Hossain, M. K., Ali, M. H., Haque, M. D., & Rahman, M. F. (2023). High efficiency Cu2MnSnS4 thin film solar cells with SnS BSF and CdS ETL layers: A numerical simulation. Heliyondoi.org/10.1016/j.heliyon.2023.e15716

Jost, N., Gu, T., Hu, J., Domínguez, C., & Antón, I. (2023). Integrated Micro‐Scale Concentrating Photovoltaics: A Scalable Path Toward High‐Efficiency, Low‐Cost Solar Power. Solar RRL. doi.org/10.1002/solr.202300363

Liang, H., et al. (2023). A rare case of brominated small molecule acceptors for high-efficiency organic solar cells. Nature Communications. doi.org/10.1038/s41467-023-40423-6

Mishra, S., Boro, B., Bansal, N. K., & Singh, T. (2023). Machine Learning-Assisted Design of Wide Bandgap Perovskite Materials for High-Efficiency Indoor Photovoltaic Applications. Materials Today Communications. doi.org/10.1016/j.mtcomm.2023.106376

Zhao, Y., et al. (2023). Effects of (i) a‐Si: H deposition temperature on high‐efficiency silicon heterojunction solar cells. Progress in Photovoltaics. https://doi.org/10.1002/pip.3620

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Taha Khan

Written by

Taha Khan

Taha graduated from HITEC University Taxila with a Bachelors in Mechanical Engineering. During his studies, he worked on several research projects related to Mechanics of Materials, Machine Design, Heat and Mass Transfer, and Robotics. After graduating, Taha worked as a Research Executive for 2 years at an IT company (Immentia). He has also worked as a freelance content creator at Lancerhop. In the meantime, Taha did his NEBOSH IGC certification and expanded his career opportunities.  

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