Perovskites are awesome. But they tend to be toxic. But the solution may come in perovskite-inspired materials.
The big news in energy are perovskites. Originally a rhombus-shaped mineral from Calcium titanate but now the term also includes the whole group of materials that have the same crystalline structure as perovskite. And perovskite solar cells keep breaking records and have many benefits. But their common toxicity is certainly not one of them as they tend to include lead and halogens.
It’s precisely the toxicity that was the motivation for the development of a new, advanced material that should bring many of the benefits of perovskites and reduce the numbers of problems they have. A team of British and Chinese scientists focused on so-called perovskite-inspired materials (PIMs) and are trying to develop a new generation of solar cells that would use PIMs.
Robert Hoye from the Imperial College London and his colleagues used non-toxical PIMs that mimic the structure of typical perovskites with lead and halogens yet don’t include any of these toxic substances. Such materials are safer but the safety does come at a price. They are much less effective at making electricity than conventional perovskites.
But that doesn’t mean they are useless. When the scientists analyzed such a PIM they confirmed that their effectiveness sucks out in the Sun but they are almost ideal for use in indoor conditions. While in the Sun, PIMs make electricity with an effectiveness of just 1 % but in indoor conditions, the effectiveness is 4 – 5 %. While experimental indoor perovskite solar cells are substantially more effective compared to current standard indoor photovoltaics they are as good. Just a milometer sized PIM can produce small transistor circuits in indoor conditions.
According to Hoye, another benefit is that the research of PIMs continues. Their properties should only get better and better. The scientists believe that they will soon outdo current standard indoor photovoltaics. And perhaps, one-day PIMs could use the energy coming from lights indoors and send it into smartphones, speakers, wearables, and smart-home gadgets.
A great benefit of PIMs is that they can be incorporated into substrates that aren’t common in energetics such as plastic or textiles. Non-toxic PIMs could lead to the creation of devices for wearable electronics, biomedicine, smart-homes that won’t require batteries or a similar source of energy.
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