Novel attempt to design solar cell based on chalcogenide perovskite delivers 13.86% efficiency

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A team of scientists led by the University of Fort Hare in South Africa has designed a perovskite solar cell with an absorber made of a chalcogenide perovskite material known as barium zirconium sulfide (BaZrS3).

Metal chalcogenide perovskites, with their nontoxic elemental composition, are known to offer greater thermal and aqueous stability than organic-inorganic halide perovskites. This means that they may be more suitable than other materials in the perovskite family to address the two biggest issues in commercial solar cell production: low thermal stability and toxicity. Furthermore, chalcogenide possesses an optimum band gap of 1.40 eV that is particularly suitable for single-junction photovoltaic applications.

BaZrS3 is a non-toxic, abundant, inorganic chalcogenide perovskite material that has attracted the attention of the scientific PV community in recent years, as it crystallizes in a perovskite structure, while also showing very strong light absorption and good charge transport. Furthermore, it contains naturally occurring and non-hazardous components with a remarkable earth crust concentration.

In the paper “A numerical simulation and analysis of chalcogenide BaZrS3-based perovskite solar cells utilizing different hole transport materials,” published in Results in Physics, the research team explained it used the SCAPS-1D solar cell capacitance software, developed by the University of Ghent, to simulate the novel cell configuration.

The cell was designed to have a substrate made of tin oxide (FTO), an electron transport layer relying on tungsten disulfide (WS2), the BaZrS3 absorber, and a gold (Au) metal contact. For the hole transport material (HTL), several materials were tested, namely polymer Regioregular poly(3-hexylthiophene) (P3HT), copper(I) oxide (Cu2O), and copper thiocyanate (CuSCN).

Through a series of simulations conducted under standard illumination conditions, the researchers found that the best performance was obtained by the cell with the P3HT HTL. It achieved a power conversion efficiency of 13.86%, an open-circuit voltage of 6.58 V, a short-circuit current density of 17.59 mA cm−2, and a fill factor of 11.97%. For comparison, the Cu2O cell and the CuSCN device achieved efficiencies of 13.70% and 13.80%, respectively.

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“On the other hand, the devices with inorganic HTL (CuSCN and Cu2O) were thermally more stable (stable up to 400 K) than the devices with P3HT as HTL, which was stable only up to 320 K,” the scientists further explained. “Finally, relatively cheaper metals such as (platinum) Pt, nickel (Ni), and palladium (Pd) showed similar performance in all the modeled solar cells as gold and thus can be used as potential alternatives.”

The group also ascertained that a reference cell relying on an HTL made of Spiro-OMeTAD achieved power conversion efficiency of 16.70%, an open-circuit voltage of 1.08 V, a short-circuit current density of 16.80 mA cm−2, and a fill factor of 88.60%.

“It is expected that this work would shed additional light on the utilisation of BaZrS3 as a promising absorber material in the actual manufacturing of solar cells for clean energy production,” the academics concluded.

The first attempt to develop BaZrS3 for PV applications dates back to 2020, when a U.S. research team developed a thin-film that was investigated to determine its optical and electrical properties.

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