Phosphorene, a new nanomaterial made from phosphorus, is emerging as a key ingredient for more efficient and sustainable next-generation perovskite solar cells, one of the fastest-developing new solar technologies, which can achieve efficiencies comparable to more commonly used, commercially available silicon solar cells.
An international team of researchers led by Professor Joseph Shapter, formerly at Adelaide’s Flinders University and now at the University of Queensland, has made very thin phosphorene nanosheets for low-temperature perovskite solar cells using the rapid shear stress of the University’s revolutionary vortex fluidic device.
“Silicon is currently the standard for rooftop solar, and other solar panels, but they take a lot of energy to produce. They are not as sustainable as these newer options,” says Shapter.
“Phosphorene is an exciting material because it is a good conductor that will absorb visible light. In the past most non-metallic materials would have one property but not both.”
Dr Christopher Gibson, from Flinders University’s College of Science and Engineering, adds: “We’ve found exciting new way to convert exfoliated black phosphorus into phosphorene, which can help produce more efficient and also potentially cheaper solar cells.
“Our latest experiments have improved the potential of phosphorene in solar cells, showing an extra efficiency of two to three per cent in electricity production.”
Research into making high quality 2D phosphorene in large quantities – along with other future materials such as graphene – is paving the way to more efficient and sustainable production with the use of the South Australian-made vortex fluidic device, near-infrared laser light pulses and even an industrial-scale microwave oven.
The researchers are also exploring the addition of different atoms to the phosphorene matrix, which is showing very promising results in catalysis, particularly in the area of splitting water to produce hydrogen and oxygen.
With the ability to artificially produce perovskite structures, commercial viability is not too far away once the cells can be successfully scaled up. Meanwhile, research into ways to improve and optimise perovskite cell performance continues around the world, including Gibson and Shapter and their colleagues at Flinders and UQ.