perovskites, solar energy and voids of information

... candidate to replace silicon as active in solar cell ... anticipate lower fabrication costs than silicon ... charged defects in perovskite create irregularities in electricity output ... look for research into these defects

While catching up on some reading, I came across an article detailing some perovskite research. Chatter around perovskites has been on the rise of late.  They are seen as a potential alternative to silicon as the active material in solar cells.  The anticipated lower fabrication cost is one factor behind this interest.  The article was informative and I learned about some research within the perovskite space.

It particularly considered the origins of hysteresis, which leads to irregularities in electricity generation.  The presence of charged defects within the perovskite crystal structure is known, and the movement of these defects is thought to be behind the hysteresis.  It is also known that the hysteresis can be mitigated by employing particular, selective contact materials.  But, they may well increase costs and may decrease manufacturability.  The instant research found charged defects were present whether a simple or selective contact is used.  It was also speculated that the continued presence of the defects may limit the lifespan of any perovskite solar cells.  Therefore, understanding more about and eventually mitigating these defects should propel adoption of perovskites.


But there is a problem.  The article falls into an information void.  What is this?  An information void occurs when information is just there.  The reader is not sure from where it came, or, where it is going.  Voids can be mitigated by placing the article, and the information therein, in context; by giving the information surroundings.  One can only put down so many ideas and words before any writing becomes awkward and, maybe, overbearing.

So, most articles simply detail one bit of research or news. Presenting a complete picture is not every article’s role.  This though is not sufficient to understand a topic, requiring the reader piece together their own picture.

How do we get out of this void?

We get out of this void by gaining some context to the information in the article.  Again, this “step” is not the responsibility of every article that is published, but it is important for those wanting to learn and understand an area of technology.  The framing of the information in the article is schematically presented below.

looking back

Most people would turn to wikipedia to start their research, but it does not go beyond the general class of materials, and minerals.  Perovskites are a class of materials sharing the same crystal structure.  From here there might be differing major and minor constituent elements.  We are not given any knowledge of the specific perovskite(s) being studied for solar applications.  We need more specific information around the particular chemistry of the perovskites applicable to solar energy.  Both our understanding of the charged defects and the presence of lead (Pb) that is eluded to in the article is impacted.  A better knowledge of the specific material would also allow a better appreciation of the fabrication methods.  The article refers to a simple printing technique that, on the face of it, sounds to be only a partial bit of the picture.  Again, it would be important to better understand this.

looking forward

What about the other side? What about looking forward?  At the end of the article we came away with some information on charged defects, manufacturing and the presence of lead in the perovskite structure.  Someone with interest in the area would benefit from further information in all these areas. I would particularly find developments around the charged defects are important.  This includes tracking research and patents around approaches for addressing them.  At first glance, eliminating or mitigating these defects would advance the use of perovskites.  This takes us to manufacturability.  We have a bit of information, but we need more to appreciate how viable perovskites are.

There is considerable room to fill out the story.  Articles are most often written for those already having a base of knowledge.  However, it is only once the details are filled out can one properly assess an area of technology and make decisions around it.  One needs to better understand the basic technology, the current problems around it and the path forward.