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Explore Energy is a cross-campus effort of the Precourt Institute for Energy.

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Practicing with Perovskites

Feliciano Cortes, Coterm, Electrical Engineering

Hi, I’m Feliciano, and I’ve been spending my summer with the Dauskardt group, working on techniques to improve perovskite solar cells. The lab group works on a wide range of nanomaterials and technologies, which can vary from skin tissue samples to solar modules, such as the team I’ve been working with.

Going into the summer, I was initially worried about being able to figure my way out around working in a lab, and just even being knowledgeable enough to communicate with others in the team. Being my first real in-person research experience, I was afraid of being so obviously inexperienced, and coupled with my social anxiety, reaching out for help was also very difficult to do. However, I was able to make progress thanks to the support of my amazing mentor, Austin.

I’m very happy to be able to now share what I’ve been up to and what exactly my project is about. As I mentioned I’m working with the perovskite solar cell team under Austin’s guidance. For some context, the current standard for solar panel modules is with silicon crystal solar cells, which are durable and achieve good levels of efficiency in solar energy conversion. They are however, rather costly and time consuming to manufacture as they involve vacuum-based processes.

Perovskite solar cells are a much cheaper alternative, and my lab team is looking at open-air manufacturing processes which would make their production much quicker too. The main downside is that perovskite is in general more susceptible to degradation, so achieving durable, high-efficiency devices is our main goal. A perovskite solar cell is divided into 5 main layers: glass substrate/front electrode, hole-transport layer, perovskite layer, electron-transport layer, and the rear electrode layer. My project focuses on alternative application methods of the rear electrode layer. (Pictured are some of our finished perovskite devices)

For my project, I’ll be testing out different conductive adhesives which can be applied for as the rear electrode layer of the perovskite device. Currently, this layer is applied with an evaporating technique which uses precious metals such as gold and silver, which is both time consuming and costly. On the other hand, the conductive adhesive is ready to go and uses much cheaper metals such as copper. To test the performance of these adhesives, I’ll be running solar simulations on our devices. I’ll modify different parameters such as temperature and pressure to see what conditions yield the best performance for these perovskite devices with the adhesive rear electrode.

So far, I’ve been shadowing Austin in the lab checking out the machine that sprays on the perovskite layer onto the device substrate. We’ve also begun using the solar simulation tool along with the software used to read the data generated on the performance of these devices. The picture to the left shows what the spraying station looks like.

To be honest, the first couple weeks were about as difficult as I expected, but the support from my team and awesome mentor, Austin, kept me going. Like me, he started off in research going into his first year as a coterm student, and he shared with me that part of finding your place in research is being okay with not knowing what you’re doing a lot of the time, especially in the beginning. Showing up and asking for help, no matter how silly the question feels, will keep you moving forward.