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Brian McGee

Project Title

Commercial Scalability of Perovskite Solar Cells

Project Description

Over the next two years I intend to research increasing the solar energy to electrical energy efficiency of perovskite solar cells up to or past that of crystalline silicon solar cells. The tradition crystalline silicon solar cells are limited by the laws of thermodynamics to an efficiency of around 33%. These same laws limit perovskite cells to around 66%. This greater potential efficiency is one of the major factors in the rise of research in perovskites. A perovskite is a solar cell with a "perovskite" structure of organic and inorganic materials. These layers are made of semi-conductors from groups III & V and are only nanometers thick. To synthesize layers this thin, different inks containing one of these compounds are made and then applied between an anode and a cathode and then covered by a clear film or glass. Since each film has its own specific compound, each one accepts a different wavelength of light and thus is only efficient in certain conditions. By layering different ink films, one can increase the spectrum of wavelengths that the cell will efficiently convert into electrical energy. I intend to design my own films and optimize the efficiency by layering each over the other to find the best combination. I will work in the Radiation Building in the lab of Professor Prashant Kamat where I will learn how to create inks and films so that I can test my own perovskites. A possible area of growth to this research will be to create a commercially applicable sized perovskite as most lab research has been done with small films. This topic has gained an increasing amount of interest in the past years from labs all over the world. This project will be a tough job but I am confident that it will be integral to a larger solution. I look to gain an understanding of the field and what innovations lie ahead.

Department Affiliation

Department of Electrical Engineering

Courses Related to My Project

Several courses relate to my project, including Integrated Engineering and Business Fundamentals I, Integrated Engineering and Business Fundamentals II, and the Five Year Dual-Degree Program (MBA).

Business/Entrepreneurship Opportunities

Today's solar energy market is dominated by silicon solar cells. These cells have reached their limit in efficiency and are proving to be hard to mass produce as well as too expensive to attract people away from the electrical company. Perovskite solar cells, in contrast, are much more easily and inexpensively produced. These solar cells could dramatically bring the price down for the consumer and spark a new era in electricity.

Another huge benefit to perovskite photovoltaics is their aesthetic. Traditional Silicon crystalline cells do not fit with anyone's dream home. Take an average home owner, for example, someone who loves the idea of clean and cheap solar energy but who, if given the choice, would not want a black rectangle as the center piece of his or her home. Perovskite solar cells are versatile and multicolored; they can be tailored to match the style of a building or even be engineered to blend in with the shingles already present on homes. The consumer is not only looking for a cheap and efficient source of power but also something that is not an eye sore.  

In addition, the tandem ability of perovskite solar cells allows for a quick upgrade to traditional silicon cells. A tandem cell is comprised of a pre-existing silicon solar cell with added layers of perovskite inks. The homeowners and businesses that have already invested in solar cells are then not out of the picture when it comes to potential customers. The business plan is ttwo-fold: to sell new, aesthetically appealing solar cells while also applying new perovskite technology to existing silicon cells.

Global Perspective

Each culture has a unique style of architecture and design. Traditional silicon solar cells contrast these designs greatly. The innovation of perovskite solar inks creates a new level of versatility that allows for more cultures to adapt this technology to their specific tastes. Beyond this, the inexpensively produced and easily transported perovskites can help put underdeveloped nations on the electrical grid. Often times, underdeveloped nations may not have the infrastructure to create their own grid, but they definitely receive enough sun to power their growing society.

Another global aspect of perovskite technology is its ability to industrialize nations. Perovskite development factories are projected to operate like that of a newspaper printing press. Literal presses spread the inks onto a film that allows for quick mass production. They are simple to design and provide opportunities for communities to find work. Thus, perovskites encourage societal economic growth while at the same time transports these same societies into the present electrical age. The potential for this technology is incredible as it not only has the ability to change the way humanity powers lifestyles but also has the truly unique ability to foster societal growth.

Community Engagement

The commercialization of perovskite solar cells will not reach its potential without the involvement of the community. This is a job creator. Perovskite cell factories are easy to build and require a great sum of workers to work efficiently. For cities like Detroit or South Bend, this type of business would boost the community and provide a much cheaper form of energy. Communities like this desperately need something to reawaken their job base. Perovskites can easily do this job as they bring with them not only the future but the opportunity for industrial growth.

Beyond the industrial community, schools with solar powered windows could give children the first introduction to this incredible science. Not to mention the possible science learning kits that could be created with such inexpensive and versatile materials that will excite children about what is possible with technology. A community builders, such as a solar powered mosaic, are sure to not only peak people's interest but also involve them in new and exciting ways.