Will We Soon See 3D Printed Solar Batteries?

Will We Soon See 3D Printed Solar Batteries

The researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) have made a new discovery! This time, the scientists were interested in perovskites, a mineral originally considered to be a crystal composed of calcium, titanium and oxygen, but now referring to other metallic components with an identical crystal structure. For several years now, perovskites have been popular thanks to their ability to convert sunlight into electrical energy. Now, ORNL researchers have developed new ways to design parts from this material, including additive manufacturing. Notably, they are looking at how 3D printing and perovskites can be combined to work towards a new generation of solar batteries.

Thanks to its different production methods, the team behind the study believes it can manufacture more efficient and robust photovoltaic devices, helping to lead the way to more clean, reliable power sources. An important consideration as the threat of global warming becomes ever more evident worldwide. Notably, Olga Ovchinnikova, co-author of the study, talks about the benefits of using additive manufacturing with the materials, commenting, “We can use 3D printing to create wearables, put them on top of cars and really democratize the use of perovskite solar cells. You could put them anywhere.” According to Olga Ovchinnikova, in the future it would not be surprising to see 3D technologies play a major role in this field.


Why Perovskites?

Though 3D printing has often been used in recent years at ORNL, the question remains why AM and perovskites? Well, as previously mentioned, one of the main reasons researchers are looking into this material is for its conversion efficiency. Currently, standard multicrystalline silicon-based solar cells have reached a peak conversion efficiency of about 23%, and it seems that perovskites could surpass this. Though the researchers do not mention what the conversion rate could be, they note that studies have shown that the material has revealed their potential to offer “untapped reservoirs of energy generated from light.” 

In addition, perovskite is also an attractive material for researchers because of its lightness, flexibility and low price. Due to these characteristics, it is possible to design thin films that can cover any type of surface. In this case, it is obvious that additive manufacturing could offer great benefits, especially thanks to its ability to manufacture parts with complex geometries.

However, at present, some limitations do not allow the full democratization of perovskite. Compared to silicon, the mineral degrades much faster, which makes it less durable. And this is now the challenge for ORNL scientists. Ovchinnikova concludes, “Now that we better understand some of the fundamental physics, we’re looking at how to engineer and improve the materials to enhance their photovoltaic effects. We can think about the next level.” You can read more about it in the press release HERE or in the paper “Ferroic Halide Perovskite Optoelectronics” HERE.


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