New Flexible Transparent Solar Cells Could Be Used in Buildings, Vehicles and Portable Electronics

Curved Glass Building

Freestanding Microwire-Array Enables Flexible Solar Windows

TSCs are emerging devices that combine the advantages of visible transparency and light-to-electricity conversion. One of the valuable prospective applications of such devices is their integration into buildings, vehicles, or portable electronics. Therefore, color-perception and flexibility are important as well as the efficiency. Currently, existing transparent solar cells are based predominantly on organics, dyes, perovskites, and amorphous Si; however, the color-tinted transparent nature or rigidity of those devices strongly limits the utility of the resulting TSCs for real-world applications.

In a new paper published in Light Science & Application, scientists from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology, Republic of Korea and co-workers developed flexible and efficient transparent solar cells that have color-neutrality. Based on the silicon microwires embedded in the transparent polymer matrix, they demonstrated transparent, flexible and even stretchable solar cells. This freestanding film was successfully utilized for building block of transparent solar cells. A heterojunction between n-type Si and p-type polymeric semiconductor is formed at the top portion and a transparent conductive film at the bottom of the device.

Based on the silicon microwires embedded in the transparent polymer matrix, they demonstrated transparent, flexible and even stretchable solar cells.

The transparency of the devices can be tuned from ~ 10% to 55% by adjusting the spacing between the microwires. Moreover, after the cyclic bending test or under the bending state, the performance was maintained without a significant decrease. indicating that the transparent solar cells have excellent flexibility. This stretchable and transparent freestanding-form of microwire array / polymer composites film in this study is promising for future transparent solar cells.

Transparent solar cells have an unavoidable trade-off between energy generation and light admission. Therefore, based on the criteria for transparent solar cells, there is an inevitable compromise of efficiency to achieve transparency. This makes transparent solar cells difficult to get high performance. Overcoming this issue, these scientists suggest their strategy to obtain high performance transparent solar cells:

“Basically, the solar cells can generate the electricity from the absorbed light. Therefore, attaining the high performance as maintaining the transparency is very challenging. We revealed absorption mechanism inside Si microwire-array and developed the new morphology of microwire which can manipulate the path of light. As a result, we successfully enhanced light absorption which can contribute to the light-generated-current in the transparent solar cells maintaining the transparency.”

“The transparent solar cell based on the freestanding film with advanced light-absorption technique shows the power conversion efficiency over 8 % at 10 % of visible transparency, which are comparable to state-of-the-art neutral-color transparent solar cells based on organics and perovskites,” they added.

“Moreover, the devices are based on the Si wafer already verified and widely used in the Si solar cell market. Therefore, this robust, ultra-light and flexible platform is feasible and promising as a commercialized transparent solar cell for practical application in the future,” the scientists forecast.

Reference: “Stretchable and colorless freestanding microwire arrays for transparent solar cells with flexibility” by Sung Bum Kang, Ji-Hwan Kim, Myeong Hoon Jeong, Amit Sanger, Chan Ul Kim, Chil-Min Kim and Kyoung Jin Choi, 12 December 2019, Light: Science & Applications.
DOI: 10.1038/s41377-019-0234-y


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