Transparent cell can transform window into solar panel that lasts for 30 years

Scientists at the University of Michigan, USA, have developed a new design of high-efficiency transparent solar cells with a service life that exceeds 30 years old. They managed to prevent the organic materials used in the light conversion from rapidly degrading during use.

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Although silicon sheets are still the most used material by the world industry in the manufacture of conventional solar panels, it is not transparent enough, which prevents its direct application in windows and facades of buildings to generate clean electricity.

“Solar energy is the cheapest way of electricity that humanity has produced since the industrial revolution. With these innovative devices used ​​in windows, entire buildings can become a self-sufficient power plant,” explains electrical engineering professor Stephen Forrest, lead author of the study.

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Organic materials

The strength and weakness of organic materials, used in the conversion of light, lie in the molecules that transfer the generated electrons to the circuit’s electrodes, which use and store solar energy. These materials, known as “non-fullerene acceptors”, incorporate sulfur in their structure and can achieve almost the same energy efficiency as silicon.

In laboratory tests, the researchers showed that, in unprotected solar conversion material, energy efficiency dropped to less than 60% of its initial value in weeks, preventing its application during long exposure cycles in photovoltaic panels.

Protective layers prevent organic material from deteriorating (Image: Reproduction University of Michigan)

“Non-fullerene acceptors cause a very high efficiency, but they contain very weak bonds that dissociate easily under high energy photons, especially those with ultraviolet radiation common in sunlight”, adds the engineer. the electric Yongxi Li, co-author of the study.

Problem solved

To increase the durability of solar cells, scientists blocked ultraviolet light by adding a layer of zinc oxide on the side of the glass that would face the Sun. , increasing energy absorption.

Material has 12% transparency (Image: Reproduction University of Michigan)

The team tested this new protection system using different intensities of sunlight, with variations between

and 324 weeks at a temperature of 60 °C. By projecting the material’s degradation rate, they calculated that the protected solar cells would remain functioning for years, with an energy efficiency close to 503572%.

“We we have already managed to increase the device’s transparency module to %. Soon, we will reach a level above 53% translucency in high efficiency photovoltaic panels. This means that they can be deployed in regular windows, without harming the look of architectural projects and with relatively low costs”, concludes Professor Stephen Forrest.

Source: University of Michigan

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