Page content

Elusive solar cells seen under microscope for first time

The research, published in the latest edition of prestigious journal Nature Communications, proves that perovskite cells have a twinned domain structure, a microstructure which has been proposed in these materials but never before proved.

Professor of Materials Science and Engineering Yi-Bing Cheng said that this development will allow new discoveries and could have a significant impact on solar cell research.

“Compared to the silicon solar cells on which most current solar panels are based, perovskite solar cells have huge potential for producing cheap and abundant solar power. This discovery allows us to better understand some fundamental aspects of the perovksite solar cells.”

“No-one has ever seen this microstructure before because it’s very easily damaged under the electron microscope. You need a very dedicated researcher who has great skill, and also to have very suitable, very mild experimental conditions. After one or two minutes under the electron beam the  microstructure  disappears,”  he said.

Professor Cheng has been at the forefront of research to prove that a new generation of solar cells can be produced through an automated printing process, potentially allowing the solar cells to be printed directly onto roof steel.

Lead author of the research, PhD student Mathias Uller Rothmann, spent two years perfecting the experimental conditions using state of the art equipment at the Monash Centre for Electron Microscopy.

Director of the Monash Centre for Electron Microscopy, Professor Joanne Etheridge, said that it was a considerable breakthrough.

“Microstructure can have a significant influence on the performance of solar cells. Understanding this twinned domain structure is an important step towards engineering better and more efficient solar cells,” she said.

The research was supported by the Australian Centre for Advanced Photovoltaics.