Solar energy is good for the environment, but there is a limit to how much energy traditional solar cells can produce.
That’s why scientists are always looking for ways to improve them. An exciting new option is the use of a material called “perovskite” in solar cells.
However, perovskite has its own problems: it can be damaged very easily, especially if it is partially shaded.
But guess what?
Researchers have found an exciting solution. They decided to combine traditional silicon solar cells with the newer perovskite cells.
The Result? A “tandem” solar cell that works better and lasts longer than any single type!
Barry Rand, the leader of the research team from Princeton University and King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), explained that these tandem solar cells can convert more sunlight into electricity than just silicon or just perovskite.
And the even better news is that the robust silicon solar cells help protect the weaker perovskite cells.
To check how well this combination works, the scientists conducted some experiments. They built three groups of solar cells: one made only of silicon cells, one made only of perovskite, and one with both types connected together.
Then they blocked some of the sunlight from reaching a cell in each group to see what would happen.
Normally blocking sunlight from a perovskite cell would be really bad. The other cells would try to pass their electrical charge through the blocked cell, which could destroy it.
But when they tried this with the tandem cells, the silicon helped protect the perovskite, making the whole system much more reliable.
Stefaan De Wolf, another researcher on the team, explained that usually the weakest part of a system determines how strong the whole is. But in this case, the stronger silicon actually helped protect the weaker perovskite.
What does this all mean for the future of solar energy? First, it could make the use of perovskite cells much more practical.
Since silicon solar cells are already being manufactured on a large scale, perovskite cells could simply be added to them rather than building an entirely new manufacturing process. This could accelerate the speed at which we can start using this new technology.
However, the team mentioned that there are still challenges to be overcome. For example, these tandem cells still don’t handle heat well. But they are optimistic. If they can figure out how to make the cells more stable, it could lead to even better solar technology down the road.
Rand put it well: If they could overcome these challenges, tandem solar cells could make an already successful technology even better.
In his opinion, all researchers in this field should focus on making these tandem cells the future of solar energy.
So next time you see a solar panel, it might just be a charged tandem version that is better for the earth and produces better electricity!
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