Engineers characterize thermal energy conversion mechanism in lattice of advanced nanomaterial, demonstrate its “tunability”

For solar cells to be widely used in the coming decades researchers must resolve two major challenges: increasing efficiency and lowering toxicity.

Solar energy works through a process that converts light into energy called the photovoltaic effect. Certain light sensitive materials when packaged together in a “cell” have the ability to convert energy from light into electricity.

Most of today’s solar cells require a highly processed form of Silicon. The processing results in toxic effects on humans and the environment. According to an article published in AZO Materials in 2015, many strides have been made since the first solar cell was developed, but average efficiency rates are still well below 30 percent, with many cells barely reaching 10 percent efficiency. 

Researchers have recently been working with a material―an emerging chalcogenide perovskite CaZrSe3―that has shown great potential for energy conversion applications because of its notable optical and electrical properties.

“These materials hold extreme promise for solar energy conversion applications,” says Ganesh Balasubramanian, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering. “One can potentially design them as solar thermoelectric materials that convert thermal energy from the sun to usable electric power.”

Balasubramanian, working with postdoctoral student Eric Osei-Agyemang and undergraduate Challen Enninful Adu, have for the first time, revealed first-hand knowledge about the fundamental energy carrier properties of chalcogenide perovskite CaZrSe3. They have published their findings in NPJ Computational Materials. This work compliments a recent article by the same team published in Advanced Theory and Simulations.

“Together they provide a holistic look at the transport properties of these materials,” says Balasubramanian. “They also demonstrate that chalcogenide perovskite CaZrSe3 can potentially be used for waste heat recovery or solar energy conversion to electricity.”
 
Read the full story in the Lehigh University News Center.
 
Story by Lori Friedman
Image by Sebastian Ganso from Pixabay

Photovoltaic system (Image by Sebastian Ganso from Pixabay)

CaZrSe3 diagram

CaZrSe3 in the distorted orthorhombic perovskite phase depicted from the (a) side view and (b) top view.

Ganesh Balasubramanian

Ganesh Balasubramanian, assistant professor, mechanical engineering