ANU breakthrough smashes solar record

Researchers at the Australian National University have beaten their previous record to develop the world’s most efficient perovskite solar cell.

The research team led by Dr Jun Peng achieved a solar cell efficiency of 22.6 per cent, according to results published in the scientific journal Nature last month.

The study, which received funding from ARENA, beat the previous record for perovskite cells of 21.6 per cent.

The light and flexible materials used in these next generation cells have the potential to lower manufacturing costs.

Perovskites – a family of materials with a specific crystal structure – were first used for solar cells in 2009 and have the potential to both increase efficiency and decrease the cost of solar electricity.

Though perovskites have always lagged behind traditional silicon-based cells in terms of efficiency, ANU’s record demonstrated their design is competitive with many of the silicon PV products on the market today.

Researchers elsewhere have already demonstrated the potential for “tandem” cells which layer perovskite and silicon technology into a single cell, to achieve higher efficiencies than either technology on their own.

“We’re always trying to reach the highest efficiency we can. Commercialisation won’t happen without high efficiency,” co-author Professor Kylie Catchpole said in a statement announcing the results.

“But we need a cheap process as well. This is an approach that definitely combines those two elements in a way that’s different to how it’s been achieved previously.”

“We’ve also been able to overcome an energy loss in one of the layers that scientists didn’t previous realise was there,” Professor Catchpole said.

“The modelling we’ve done shows this was a limitation in previous types of solar cells.”

Ultra low cost solar is one of the Australian Government’s priority technologies identified in the Low Emissions Technology Statement, backed by ARENA with a $40 million Solar R&D round to drive innovation in PV technology.

ARENA CEO Darren Miller said ARENA was proud to have supported ANU’s research.

“This efficiency record set by ANU follows a long history of Australian research leading the world in solar PV technology,” Mr Miller said.

“We’re proud to have supported this project and look forward to seeing more breakthroughs like this through our new R&D round.

“Low cost, high efficiency solar will be crucial to Australia’s decarbonisation over the next decade. Providing Australia with abundant cheap electricity will enable green hydrogen production and electrified industrial processes to become cost competitive,” he said.