NTU's solar cell shines

NTU's solar cell shines
Nanyang Technological University's (NTU) executive director of the Energy Research Institute, Professor Subodh Mhaisalkar (left) and fellow researcher Dr Nripan Mathews (right) holding up the new perovskite solar cells, which they hope to develop into a solar cell module, held by NTU assistant professor of physics Sum Tze Chien (centre). The team are trying to make the solar cells even more efficient, which could lead to solar panels becoming up to five times cheaper.

A next-generation solar cell material being developed in Singapore might not just be good for cheaper solar cells, it can also work as a light-emitting material and be used in anything from shopping mall facades to electronic devices.

Scientists at Nanyang Technological University were studying a material called perovskite, which is deposited on a solar cell base in a way that minimises flaws and allows light to flow straight through, so solar cells can be made thicker to harness more energy.

When they shone a laser on the material, it glowed brightly.

Most solar cell materials are good at absorbing light, but are generally not expected to generate light, said Assistant Professor Sum Tze Chien, who led the work. It turns out the material is also suited to making lasers, he said.

The work was published in the journal Nature Materials earlier this month.

"What we have discovered is that because it is a high-quality material and very durable under light exposure, it can capture light particles and convert them to electricity, or vice versa," said Prof Sum, a Singaporean scientist at NTU's School of Physical and Mathematical Sciences.

By changing the composition of the material slightly, researchers could make it emit a variety of colours.

Now, the team is working on scaling it up for large-scale solar cells. It has also applied for a patent for its hybrid perovskite material

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