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Researchers Boost Performance of Solar Cells By Using Human Hair From a Barbershop


Researchers have used carbon dots, created from human hair waste from a barbershop, to create a kind of “armor” to enhance the performance of cutting-edge solar technology.

In a study, Researchers led by Professor Hongxia Wang in collaboration with Associate Professor Prashant Sonar from the Center for Materials Science at QUT demonstrated that carbon nanodots could be used to improve the performance of perovskite solar cells.

Perovskite solar cells, a relatively new photovoltaic technology, are considered the best photovoltaic candidate to provide low-cost, high-efficiency solar electricity for years to come. They have proven to be as effective in energy conversion efficiency as current commercially available monocrystalline silicon solar cells, but the hurdles for researchers in this area is making the technology cheaper and more stable.

Unlike silicon cells, they are created with a compound that is easily manufactured, and since they are flexible, they could be used in scenarios such as solar powered clothing, backpacks that charge your devices on the go, and even tents that could serve as standalone power. . sources.

This is the second major investigation to occur as a result of human hair derived carbon dots as a multifunctional material.

Last year associate professor Prashant Sonar led a research team, including Center for Materials Science researcher Amandeep Singh Pannu, that converted hair debris into carbon nano-dots by breaking hairs and then burning them at 240 degrees Celsius. In that study, the researchers showed that the carbon dots could be turned into flexible displays that could be used in future smart devices.

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In this new study, published in the Journal of Materials Chemistry A , Professor Wang’s research team, including Dr. Ngoc Duy Pham, and Mr. Pannu, in collaboration with Professor Prashant Sonar’s group, used the carbon nanopoints in perovskite solar cells out of curiosity. Professor Wang’s team had previously discovered that nanostructured carbon materials could be used to improve the performance of a cell.

After adding a solution of carbon dots in the perovskite manufacturing process, Professor Wang’s team found that the carbon dots formed a wave-shaped layer of perovskite where the perovskite crystals are surrounded by the carbon dots. .

“It creates a kind of protective layer, a kind of armor,” said Professor Wang.

“It protects the perovskite material from moisture or other environmental factors, which can damage the materials.”

The study found that perovskite solar cells covered with carbon dots had higher energy conversion efficiency and greater stability than perovskite cells without the carbon dots.

Professor Wang has been researching advanced solar cells for about 20 years and has been working with perovskite cells since they were invented about a decade ago, with the main objective of developing stable and cost-effective photovoltaic materials and devices to help solve the energy problem in the world.

“Our ultimate goal is to make solar electricity cheaper, easier to access, more durable, and to make photovoltaic devices lightweight because today’s solar cells are very heavy,” said Professor Wang.

“The big challenges in the area of ​​perovskite solar cells are solving the stability of the device to be able to operate for 20 years or more and developing a manufacturing method that is suitable for large-scale production.

“Currently, all of the reported high-performance perovskite solar cells have been manufactured in a controlled environment with extremely low humidity and oxygen, with a very small cell area that are virtually unviable for commercialization.

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“For the technology to be commercially viable, it is necessary to overcome the challenges of manufacturing efficient, stable, flexible and large-area perovskite solar panels at low cost.

“This can only be achieved through a thorough understanding of the properties of the material in large-scale production and under industrially compatible conditions.”

Professor Wang is particularly interested in how perovskite cells could be used in the future to power spacecraft.

The International Space Station is powered by four solar panels, which can generate up to 120 kW of electricity. But one downside to today’s space PV technology is the weight of the payload to get it there.

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While perovskite would be much lighter, one of the challenges for researchers is developing perovskite cells capable of coping with extreme radiation and a wide range of temperature variation in space, from minus 185 degrees to more than 150 degrees. centigrade.

Professor Wang said the solution could take ten years, but researchers continue to gain more insight in the area.

Currently, Professor Wang’s research team is collaborating with Professor Dmitri Golberg at the QUT Center for Materials Science to understand the properties of perovskite materials under extreme environmental conditions, such as strong irradiation of an electron beam and a shift drastic temperature.

“I am quite optimistic given how much this technology has improved so far,” said Professor Wang.

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Fountain: Queensland University of Technology

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