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Rice University Scientists Develop Reinforced Solar Cells

Credit: Jeff Fitlow/Rice University

Unleash the power of the sun.

So if you didn’t know, the cells of certain solar panels are made of perovskites. Perovskite is a crystal mineral that’s good at harvesting energy from sunlight. Problem is, Perovskite cells don’t stand up well to humidity, light, and heat, which rather brilliantly defeats the entire point. Luckily, some scientists from Rice University have reformulated Perovskite cells, and ended up with something a little tougher.

Rice U materials scientist Jun Lou and his team developed new solar cells with an altered mineral makeup. By layering inorganic materials like carbon and glass along with perovskite, they created an all-inorganic cell with a 12% efficiency rate at capturing light, which translates to about 1.20 volts per cell. Technically, this is worse than an organic/inorganic hybrid, but the upshot is its resilience. The hybrid cells degrade in a few days, which keeps them from being commercially viable, while the inorganic cells can last months. They’re also dirt-cheap to produce and easy to assemble and enlarge.

Perovskite cells aren’t quite ready for prime time just yet, but the researchers believe that if they could get their light efficiency up to at least 20%, they’ll have a commercially viable option.