Increasing the sustainability of solar technology
Solar experts at Manchester have engineered a process to make new perovskite solar panels more energy-efficient and affordable.
Global problem: environmental risk of damaged solar panels
Research beacon breakthroughs
Find out how world-class academic research is commercialised by scientists, engineers, medical professionals, business leaders and policymakers at Manchester.
Solar panels are becoming increasingly common in the UK, but their uptake needs to accelerate in order to meet our carbon reduction targets.
Traditional silicon solar panels are efficient at converting sunlight to useful energy, but they can be expensive and impractical for certain uses. This is where a newer form of solar panels offers potential.
Perovskite solar cells are made by simple solution processing and can be mass-produced using roll-to-roll manufacturing, similar to the way newspapers are printed. This reduces the cost of solar application, making it more commercially viable.
Until now, however, uptake has been hampered by potential environmental risks. Perovskite solar cells contain lead, a cumulative toxin, and if the cells get damaged, there is potential for the lead ions to leak.
Manchester solution: improving the safety of perovskite solar cells
Scientists at The University of Manchester have devised a way to eliminate the lead release from broken cells and increase the environmental safety of perovskite solar cells.
Professor Brian Saunders and Dr David J Lewis have used a bioinspired mineral called hydroxyapatite, a major constituent of human bone, to create a ‘failsafe’ that captures the lead ions in an inorganic matrix. As a result, if cells are damaged, toxins are stored in an inert mineral, rather than released into the environment.
We embarked on this research as we were committed to eliminating an environmental risk. That commitment has resulted in increasing both the sustainability and the efficiency of perovskite solar cells. We hope these dual outcomes will increase the viability for homes and businesses, worldwide, to host and use solar technology.Dr David J Lewis / Deputy Head of Department and Reader in Materials Chemistry
The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) funded project found that through the addition of hydroxyapatite, the efficiency of perovskite solar cells increased to around 21%. This compares to around 18% efficiency for control cells with no added hydroxyapatite. Increased efficiency in panels means more energy can be generated and at a lower cost.
Dr David J Lewis, Deputy Head of Department and Reader in Materials Chemistry, added, “We embarked on this research as we were committed to eliminating an environmental risk. That commitment has resulted in increasing both the sustainability and the efficiency of perovskite solar cells. We hope these dual outcomes will increase the viability for homes and businesses, worldwide, to host and use solar technology.”
- Large-scale application of perovskite solar cell technology.
- Wider deployment of solar technology.
- Support delivery of net zero targets across the globe.
Find out more
Related research papers:
- ‘Bioinspired scaffolds that sequester lead ions in physically damaged high efficiency perovskite solar cells’, Chemical Communications, 2021.
- 'Modulating crystallization in semitransparent perovskite films using submicrometer spongelike polymer colloid particles to improve solar cell performance', Applied Energy Materials, 2019
- 'Ambient pressure aerosol-assisted chemical vapour deposition of (CH3NH3)PbBr3, an inorganic–organic perovskite important in photovoltaics', Chemical Communications, 2014
Meet the researchers:
- Professor Brian Saunders, Professor of Polymer and Colloid Chemistry at the School of Materials
- Dr David J Lewis, Deputy Head of Department and Reader in Materials Chemistry