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Solar photovoltaic technology: A review of different types of solar cells and its future trends

Mugdha V Dambhare 1 , Bhavana Butey 1 and S V Moharil 2

Published under licence by IOP Publishing Ltd Journal of Physics: Conference Series , Volume 1913 , International Conference on Research Frontiers in Sciences (ICRFS 2021) 5th-6th February 2021, Nagpur, India Citation Mugdha V Dambhare et al 2021 J. Phys.: Conf. Ser. 1913 012053 DOI 10.1088/1742-6596/1913/1/012053

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The Sun is source of abundant energy. We are getting large amount of energy from the Sun out of which only a small portion is utilized. Sunlight reaching to Earth's surface has potential to fulfill all our ever increasing energy demands. Solar Photovoltaic technology deals with conversion of incident sunlight energy into electrical energy. Solar cells fabricated from Silicon aie the first generation solar cells. It was studied that more improvement is needed for large absorption of incident sunlight and increase in efficiency of solar cells. Thin film technology and amorphous Silicon solar cells were further developed to meet these conditions. In this review, we have studied a progressive advancement in Solar cell technology from first generation solar cells to Dye sensitized solar cells, Quantum dot solar cells and some recent technologies. This article also discuss about future trends of these different generation solar cell technologies and their scope to establish Solar cell technology.

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  • Published: 28 March 2019

Photovoltaic solar cell technologies: analysing the state of the art

  • Pabitra K. Nayak   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0002-7845-5318 1 ,
  • Suhas Mahesh 1 ,
  • Henry J. Snaith   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0001-8511-790X 1 &
  • David Cahen   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0001-8118-5446 2  

Nature Reviews Materials volume  4 ,  pages 269–285 ( 2019 ) Cite this article

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  • Semiconductors
  • Solar cells
  • Solar energy and photovoltaic technology

The remarkable development in photovoltaic (PV) technologies over the past 5 years calls for a renewed assessment of their performance and potential for future progress. Here, we analyse the progress in cells and modules based on single-crystalline GaAs, Si, GaInP and InP, multicrystalline Si as well as thin films of polycrystalline CdTe and CuIn x Ga 1− x Se 2 . In addition, we analyse the PV developments of the more recently emerged lead halide perovskites together with notable improvements in sustainable chalcogenides, organic PVs and quantum dots technologies. In addition to power conversion efficiencies, we consider many of the factors that affect power output for each cell type and note improvements in control over the optoelectronic quality of PV-relevant materials and interfaces and the discovery of new material properties. By comparing PV cell parameters across technologies, we appraise how far each technology may progress in the near future. Although accurate or revolutionary developments cannot be predicted, cross-fertilization between technologies often occurs, making achievements in one cell type an indicator of evolutionary developments in others. This knowledge transfer is timely, as the development of metal halide perovskites is helping to unite previously disparate, technology-focused strands of PV research.

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Acknowledgements

The authors acknowledge the support from the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (grant nos EP/P032591/1 and EP/M015254/2) and thank B. Wenger, T. Markvardt, T. Kirchartz, T. Buonassisi and A. Bakulin for critical comments and data and D. Friedman for providing a GaAs cell. D.C. thanks the Weizmann Institute of Science, where he held the Rowland and Sylvia Schaefer Chair in Energy Research, for partial support.

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Pabitra K. Nayak, Suhas Mahesh & Henry J. Snaith

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All authors contributed to the discussion of content. P.K.N. researched most of the data, carried out the analysis and wrote the article. D.C. and S.M. contributed to the researching of data and analysis. D.C., H.J.S. and P.K.N. edited the manuscript before submission.

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H.J.S. is the co-founder and CSO of Oxford PV Ltd, a company that is commercializing perovskite photovoltaic technologies. P.K.N., S.M. and D.C. declare no competing interests.

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Nayak, P.K., Mahesh, S., Snaith, H.J. et al. Photovoltaic solar cell technologies: analysing the state of the art. Nat Rev Mater 4 , 269–285 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41578-019-0097-0

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Perovskites-Based Solar Cells: A Review of Recent Progress, Materials and Processing Methods

With the rapid increase of efficiency up to 22.1% during the past few years, hybrid organic-inorganic metal halide perovskite solar cells (PSCs) have become a research “hot spot” for many solar cell researchers. The perovskite materials show various advantages such as long carrier diffusion lengths, widely-tunable band gap with great light absorption potential. The low-cost fabrication techniques together with the high efficiency makes PSCs comparable with Si-based solar cells. But the drawbacks such as device instability, J-V hysteresis and lead toxicity reduce the further improvement and the future commercialization of PSCs. This review begins with the discussion of crystal and electronic structures of perovskite based on recent research findings. An evolution of PSCs is also analyzed with a greater detail of each component, device structures, major device fabrication methods and the performance of PSCs acquired by each method. The following part of this review is the discussion of major barriers on the pathway for the commercialization of PSCs. The effects of crystal structure, fabrication temperature, moisture, oxygen and UV towards the stability of PSCs are discussed. The stability of other components in the PSCs are also discussed. The lead toxicity and updated research progress on lead replacement are reviewed to understand the sustainability issues of PSCs. The origin of J-V hysteresis is also briefly discussed. Finally, this review provides a roadmap on the current needs and future research directions to address the main issues of PSCs.

1. Introduction

The organic-inorganic halide perovskite solar cells (PSCs) have attracted a great deal of attention of solar cell research community due to an incredible device efficiency improvement from 3.8% to 22.1% since 2009 [ 1 , 2 ]. The perovskite already gained much attention as a potential replacement of the silicon photovoltaic (PV) devices, which is still occupied the most dominant position in the current PV market, with record efficiency of about 26% [ 3 ]. This small gap of solar cell efficiency attracted recent attention especially from the researchers with experience in dye-sensitized solar cells (DSSCs) or organic solar cells because some materials can be used in both PSCs and organic solar cells. The structure of PSCs also origins from the device structure of DSSCs [ 1 ]. The perovskite materials have been demonstrated with largely tunable band gap (e.g., CH 3 NH 3 PbX 3 has a band gap from 1.5 eV to 2.3 eV) [ 4 ] and great light absorption coefficient (higher than 10 4 cm −1 ) [ 5 , 6 ], which is similar to other thin film solar cell materials such as CdTe [ 7 ] and copper zinc tin sulfide (CZTS) [ 8 ]. Its low-cost and convenient fabrication techniques also serve as the possible advantages over silicon-based devices that require complicated and costly high-vacuum deposition methods. Reports of successful cell fabrication on flexible substrates even indicated a greater possibility to the large-scale roll-to-roll manufacturing of PSCs that can be used in the industries [ 9 , 10 , 11 ].

The initial meaning of “perovskite” was about the crystal structure of calcium titanate, which was discovered in 1839 by the German mineralogist Gustav Rose and was named by the Russian mineralogist Lev Perovski. Since then, the term “perovskite” was referred to all compounds with the same crystal structure as calcium titanate. The perovskite light absorption layer has a general formula of ABX 3 , where A is an organic cation (e.g., methyl-ammonium CH 3 NH 3 + ), B is a metal cation (e.g., Pb 2+ ) and X stands for the halide anion (e.g., I − ).

The first record of perovskite-based solar cell efficiency, however, was reported by Miyasaka et al. [ 1 ] only less than one decade ago. They reported an efficiency of 3.8% based on a DSSC structure. Due to the application of liquid electrolyte in the hole-transporting material (HTM), the stability of solar cell was very weak and did not attract much attention. Similar trial was done by Park et al. [ 12 ] with the increased efficiency of 6.5% but stability was still the main problem because of the instability of HTM layer due to the liquid medium.

The application of solid-state HTM (2,2′,7,7′-tetrakis( N , N -di-pmethoxyphenylamine) -9,9′-spirobifluorene, i.e., Spiro-OMeTAD), rather than liquid HTM, onto the highly-crystallized perovskite layer triggered the efficiency boosting during the past several years. Lee et al. [ 13 ] reported a breakthrough device efficiency of 10.9% in 2012 with the open-circuit voltage higher than 1.1 V. Wang et al. [ 14 ] introduced graphene into PSCs and acquired an efficiency of 15.6% in 2013 and the application of another perovskite material, formamidinium iodide (HC(NH 2 ) 2 PbI 3 ) together with poly-triarylamine (PTAA) as a new HTM brought a remarkable 20.1% efficiency in 2015 [ 15 ]. The current record efficiency of PSCs was 22.1%, created in 2016 by Seong Sik Shin et al. [ 16 ]. They also accomplished a long-term and stable efficiency of 21.2% in another work [ 17 ]. The perovskite-inserted tandem cell also achieved a promising efficiency of 26.7% by combining with Si cells [ 18 ]. During this progress, various HTM and vacuum/non-vacuum fabrication methods have been developed, which would be discussed later in this review. Figure 1 compared the efficiency progress of PSCs with other 3rd generation photovoltaics up to date [ 19 ]. The rapid improvement of the efficiency of PSCs make perovskite being expected to be comparable with the stable performance of c-Si solar cells whereas all other kinds of non-silicon solar cells suffered great barriers in further improvements. According to the theoretical calculation based on the well-known Shockley-Queisser limit, the perovskite devices, which have (CH 3 NH 3 PbI 3−x Cl x ), could achieve an efficiency around 25–27% [ 20 ]. This result indicates that there is still opportunity for the improvement of PSCs.

An external file that holds a picture, illustration, etc.
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A comparison of perovskite efficiency progress with other kinds of photovoltaic (PV) devices (Reprinted with permission) [ 19 ].

Although laboratory scale PSCs exhibited a great progress, perovskite-based PVs still needs to overcome several barriers. In general, there are two major problems currently blocking the improvement pathway: device instability of device performance [ 21 , 22 ] and hysteresis of J-V (current density-voltage) [ 23 ]. At present, long-term efficiency measurements (>1000 h) is still not adequate for the commercialization of PSCs. The PSCs must pass a series of testing under harsh conditions and environments for similar duration (>1000 h) [ 24 ]. Thus, it is very important to understand the degradation mechanism of both perovskite materials and other device components such as hole transport medium (HTM) and electron transport medium (ETM). The J-V hysteresis was discovered during cell testing when voltage sweeping routine changed. This phenomenon brings problems for standardizing the measurement protocol of PSCs. In addition, the toxicity from lead could be another problem during the manufacturing, using and recycling of perovskite [ 25 ]. Currently several trials on applying non-toxic alternative metal ions have been reported [ 26 , 27 ] but their device efficiency is still not promising. Detail information could be found later in this review.

Future research of PSCs, except efforts on improving the stability and reducing J-V hysteresis of PSCs, could also be focus on the large-area fabrication of PSCs (even small module area) and efforts on at least partial replacement of lead with other non-toxic metal ions inside the perovskite. Bi-facial illumination could also be considered for PSCs due to its structural advantages. Detail information could be found in the last part of this review.

It has been clear that the perovskite could be the next candidate to replace Si due to its outstanding structural, electrical and optical properties. This review, therefore, would start with the discussion from micro-scale observations on the crystal and electrical structures of perovskite materials. The next part is the discussions on device-level investigations: the evolution of device structure, the fabrication methods and their progresses and the exploration of each device component. We would then focus on the research efforts of device stability and toxicity of PSCs and finally show our suggestions for further directions of the perovskite research.

2. Structures

2.1. crystal structure.

The perovskite materials have a general crystal structure described as ABX 3 , where “A” and “B” are cations with varied sizes and “X” is an anion. A typical unit cell structure of a basic perovskite compound is shown in Figure 2 . Organometallic halide perovskites include an organic cation (e.g., methyl-ammonium CH 3 NH 3 + , ethyl-ammonium CH 3 CH 2 NH 3 + , formamidinium NH 2 CH=NH 2 + ), a metal cation of carbon family (i.e., Ge 2+ , Sn 2+ , Pb 2+ ) and a halogen anion (i.e., F − , Cl − , Br − , I − ). Among them, methyl-ammonium-lead-iodide (MAPbI 3 ) is the most widely used perovskite light absorber. Some recent research efforts also replaced lead with other metal ions due to the concern of toxicity of lead during device fabrication, especially for the future large-scale manufacturing [ 26 , 28 ]. In addition, several organic cations (CH 3 NH 3 + and NH 2 CH=NH 2 + ), inorganic cations (Cs 2+ and Sn 2+ ) and halide anions (Br − , Cl − and I − ) have been used to improve the efficiency and stability [ 29 , 30 ].

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A generic perovskite crystal structure of the form ABX 3 (Reprinted with permission) [ 31 ].

Perovskite materials have different phases depending on the change of temperature. When temperature is lower than 100 K, the perovskite displayed a stable orthorhombic (γ) phase. With temperature increased to 160 K, the tetragonal (β) phase started to appear and replace the original orthorhombic (γ) phase [ 32 ]. As temperature increases further to about 330 K, the tetragonal (β) phase started being replaced by another stable cubic (α) phase [ 33 ]. Figure 3 displayed all those three crystal structures. The tetragonal-cubic phase transition at higher temperature partially influences the thermal stability of perovskite materials. Formamidinium iodide (HC(NH 2 ) 2 PbI 3 ), for example, has a phase transition occurred at a higher temperature, indicating that it is relatively stable compared with common MAPbI 3 . Moreover, a recent report suggested that light soaking could also trigger the reversible phase transition of perovskite materials [ 34 ] but more efforts are required to demonstrate this behavior.

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Comparison of ( a ) orthorhombic; ( b ) tetragonal and ( c ) cubic perovskite phases obtained from structural optimization of MAPbI 3 . Top row: a-c-plane and bottom row: a-b-plane (Reprinted with permission) [ 35 ].

2.2. Electronic Structures

The electronic structure of perovskite, especially the typical MAPbI 3 , was already estimated by DFT (density functional theory) calculations. The calculated band gap had a good agreement with the measured band gap by absorption spectrum even after considering the spin orbit coupling and other interactions like van der Walls interaction. Zhou et al. [ 36 ] studied the band structure of both cubic and tetragonal MAPbI 3 and the results were shown in Figure 4 .

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( a – c ) showed the band structure of cubic MAPbI 3 optimized with lead relaxed, corresponding to 001 − , 110 − and 111 − MAPbI 3 , respectively. The relative results of tetragonal phase results are shown in ( d – f ) (Reprinted with permission) [ 36 ].

Also, the unusual DOS (density of state) position of Pb 2+ and I - showed the p-p optical transition, which was similar to the charge transition of an ionic material [ 37 ]. On the valence band maximum (VBM), due to the s-p antibonding coupling, the valence band top tends to dispersion, which leaded to a smaller effective mass (m o ). According to other calculations [ 38 , 39 , 40 ], it is believed that MAPbI 3 had an effective mass with the same magnitude of widely-used Si and GaAs. Thus, a high carrier mobility could be expected. Although further investigation did not match this estimation with the same magnitude [ 41 ], the evidence of low radiative recombination coefficient of MAPbI 3 indicated the carrier mobility is high enough to overcome the radiative recombination [ 42 ]. Besides, long carrier lifetime and suitable diffusion length of MAPbI 3 were estimated [ 43 ]. Compared with the long diffusion length of Si and GaAs (10 1 –10 2 µm) [ 44 , 45 ], a shorter diffusion length (<10 µm) of polycrystalline thin film perovskite were interpreted as due to the grain boundary effects [ 46 , 47 ].

Moreover, by comparing the DOS and the absorption spectra of MAPbI 3 and GaAs shown in Figure 5 [ 48 ], it could be concluded that the p-p transition is stronger than typical p-s transition in GaAs. The clear difference of DOS close to the conduction band minimum (CBM) led to the difference in joint density of states (JDOS) and therefore, generated the higher light absorption shown in Figure 5 . Thus, the efficient charge generation and transition lead to a high photo-current and voltage with proper device structure.

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( a ) The optical absorption, ( b ) Density of state (DOS) and ( c ) Joint density of states (JDOS) of MAPbI 3 , CsSnI 3 and GaAs. ( d ) Calculated maximum efficiencies of MAPbI 3 , copper indium sulfide (CIS), CZTS and GaAs as a function of film thickness (Reprinted with permission) [ 48 ].

2.3. Device Structure

The first reported perovskite device is designed based on the structure of DSSCs, where liquid electrolyte capped both mesoporous TiO 2 particles and perovskite material as the new “dye” molecules. Their work demonstrated the perovskite was not a stable “dye” due to its quick dissolving in the liquid hole-transport layer. The 3.1% and 3.8% device efficiency (depends on different halogen anions) could only last few minutes [ 1 ]. A later research used similar structure but thinner TiO 2 layer (from 8–12 µm to 3 µm) and the efficiency increased to 6.5%. The perovskite was also proved a better light absorption than the dye molecules (N719); however, the corrosion appeared in liquid electrolyte and destroyed the device after 10 min [ 12 ]. To avoid this degradation, a solid-state hole-transport material was applied and the device performance was significantly increased. According to Lee et al. [ 13 ], this improvement combined both features from thin-film PVs and DSSCs and many other works were accomplished on increasing the efficiency. Solar cells were fabricated similar to thin-film PV, where perovskite served solely as the light absorber without TiO 2 assistance. They finally acquired a planar PSC with a 1.8% efficiency [ 13 ]. They modified the growing condition of perovskite and boosted the efficiency to 11.4% but TiO 2 was still the charge blocking layer [ 49 ]. At present, both planar and mesoscopic structure-based cells have efficiency of 20.8% [ 50 ] and 21.6% [ 51 ], respectively. A schematic of both planar and mesoscopic structure could be found in Figure 6 [ 51 ]. The PCSs could be fabricated in both sequences rather than thin-film PV, whose device configuration was limited by the properties of absorber materials. Thus, there are four major types of PSCs: substrate/superstrate-configured mesoporous structure and substrate/superstrate-configured planar structure.

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Schematic diagrams of ( a ) mesoscopic and ( b ) planar perovskite solar cells (PSCs) (Reprinted with permission) [ 52 ].

The most typical n-i-p mesoporous structure is the first demonstrated high-efficient structure for perovskite devices. Started with the TCO cathode (mostly fluorine-doped tin oxide, FTO), a thin compact blocking layer was applied to decrease shunting, a mesoporous metal oxide layer filled with highly crystalline perovskite absorber layer. A layer of HTM was applied and a metal contact layer was deposited on the top of the device.

The mesoporous structure is originated from typical DSSCs. The reason for the weak performance of DSSC-based perovskite devices, except the corrosion due to liquid electrolyte mentioned above, was the excess mesoporous TiO 2 part. The widely-spread TiO 2 nano-particles inside the perovskite layer reduced the growth of perovskite crystals and also decreased the distance between separated free carriers, giving extra change for carrier recombination between TiO 2 and HTM layer. Research results showed that the perovskite device acquired a higher efficiency with thinner mesoporous layer [ 12 ]. Therefore, in n-i-p mesoporous structure of PSCs, the mesoporous layer was normally less than 300 nm. Such structure allows perovskite to form a capping layer on top of the mesoporous part, serving as a light-sensitive intrinsic layer while reducing the carrier recombination process. Currently mesoporous structure is one of the most popular structures in the fabrication of PSCs with a power conversion efficiency (PCE) greater than 20% [ 50 ]. Other materials such as Al 2 O 3 and ZrO 2 have been also reported with great device efficiency [ 53 ].

The planar PSC is successful because it utilizes thin-film PV structure and excellent optical and electrical properties of perovskite. It is also an extreme case for mesoporous structure, where the thickness of mesoporous layer is zero and unlike the mesoporous structure, this type of structure could be fabricated without high-temperature process [ 52 ]. This structure requires a better control of the formation of perovskite absorber and suitable choice of HTM/ETM layers. Research efforts demonstrated a PCE of 21.6% for this type of PSC [ 51 ]. However, an ultra-thin mesoporous charge transport layer was always applied at the interface of perovskite and mesoporous TiO 2 in order to enhance the carrier collection [ 15 ].

3. Fabrication Approaches

3.1. perovskite layer fabrication.

Because of the structural similarities of PSCs with both DSSCs and thin-film PVs, the fabrication approaches for both kinds of solar cells, including almost all vacuum and non-vacuum methods, could have a considerable improvement in PSCs as well. But the actual research showed something different: due to relatively easier process and great efficiency output, spin-coating is the most widely used method in the fabrication of PSCs but it is not suitable for large-scale manufacturing. Many other non-vacuum-based approaches were also developed and will be mentioned below. Some of them, such as doctor blading and screen printing, had been also successfully applied for the fabrication of larger-scale perovskite films [ 54 ]. However, thermal evaporation is the only vacuum-based methods that ever been demonstrated with a good cell performance. To the best of our knowledge, sputtering was never used possibly due to the lack of appropriate sputtering target and the possible damage of high-energy species to the unstable perovskite materials. According to different preparation procedures, the fabrication approaches of PSCs could be categorized as: one-step process; two-steps process; vapor-assisted process and thermal evaporation process.

3.1.1. One-Step Method

One-step deposition was widely used in perovskite cell fabrication due to its easier operation and low cost. The perovskite film could be fabricated with pinhole-free and suitable stoichiometry with wise control of perovskite precursors. Typically, the perovskite precursor solution was prepared with organic halide (MAI/FAI, methylammonium/formamidinium iodide) and inorganic halide (e.g., PbI 2 ) dissolved in gamma-butyrolactone (GBL), dimethylformamide (DMF), dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) or a combination of two or all three solvents. The mixed precursors were spin-coated and annealed in a range of 100–150 °C to form phase-pure, pinhole-free and dense perovskite layer.

One-step approaches had a great starting point of a 10.9% efficiency reported by Lee et al. [ 13 ], where the as-synthesized MAI and commercially-available PbCl 2 were dissolved in DMF in a molar ratio of 3:1 in order to adjust the halide anion ratio. The perovskite layer formed after 30 s of spin coating and 100 °C post-annealing. The device also displayed a great open circuit voltage (V oc ) of more than 1 V. Since then, various solution-based methods have been developed. One group found an intermediate state MAI·PbI 2 ·DMSO, which could assist the formation of uniform and dense bi-layer perovskite absorber layer (mp-TiO 2 with nano-scale MAPbI 3 /crystal MAPbI 3 ) as shown in Figure 7 [ 55 ]. This phenomenon was followed with various solution adjustment that tried to form the desired intermediate state: Rong et al. [ 56 ] reported the formation of non-stoichiometric MA 2 Pb 3 I 8 (DMSO) 2 in a DMSO/GBL mixed solvent (3:7 v/v ) and they suggest this phase would assist with forming smooth perovskite layer. In addition, their work also discovered strong dependence of process conditions on the device performance: their PCE varied from 8.07% to 15.29% with different post-annealing temperature and time. Guo et al. [ 57 ] showed the formation of a PbI 2 –MAI–DMF complex in a temperature range of 40–80 °C. At temperatures higher than 100 °C, the prepared perovskite films displayed a better phase purity.

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( a ) Device structure of the bi-layered PSC; ( b ) X-ray diffraction (XRD) pattern of the annealed perovskite on fused silica. A surface scanning electron microscopy (SEM) image of fluorine-doped tin oxide (FTO)/bl-TiO 2 /bi-layered TiO 2 -perovskite composite is inserted; ( c ) one-step perovskite film fabrication steps (Reprinted with permission) [ 55 ].

The formation of one dimensional MA 3 PbI 9 (DMSO) 2 and MA 3 PbI 9 (DMSO) phases was also found, which brought a discussion of the perovskite formation mechanism. The results indicated that the DMSO was a better solvent [ 58 ]. Moreover, a controllable MAI·PbI 2 ·(DMSO) 1.5 was examined through TGA (thermogravimetry analysis) as shown in Figure 8 [ 59 ]. The perovskite was synthesized in a DMSO/DMF mixed solvent (85:15 v/v ) and the final device showed a high short-circuit-current density (J sc ) of 21.39 mA/cm 2 , a V oc of 1.06 V, a fill factor (FF) of 0.76 and a PCE of 16.41% [ 59 ]. The current record of PSC ( Figure 9 ), was a stable efficiency of 21.2% [ 17 ]. Except their replacement with Lanthanum (La)–doped BaSnO 3 (LBSO) of the typical mesoporous TiO 2 layer to increase the stability of perovskite, their precursor solution also included 2-Methoxyethanol, DMSO and GBL with the volume ratio of 7:3:4.

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Thermogravimetric analysis (TGA) of ( a ) MAI·PbI 2 ·DMF x powder and ( b – d ) MAI·PbI 2 ·(DMSO) y (y = 0.6, 1.5, 1.9) powder. The black, red and blue solid lines indicate mass loss behavior of the DMF (DMSO), MAI and PbI 2 , respectively (Reprinted with permission) [ 59 ].

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Photovoltaic performance of PSCs ( A ) Cross-sectional SEM image of LBSO-based PSCs (scale bar, 500 nm). ( B ) J-V curves and (inset) stabilized power conversion efficiencies (PCEs) at a maximum power point (LBSO: 0.96 V; TiO 2 : 0.91 V) for the best LBSO- and TiO 2 -based PSC. ( C ) External quantum efficiency (EQE) spectrum and J sc integrated from the EQE spectrum of the best LBSO-based PSC. ( D ) Histograms of PCEs extracted from an I sc stabilized at the maximum power point during 100 s for the LBSO-based PSCs (Reprinted with permission) [ 17 ].

Another factor on one-step fabricated PSC is the additives applied after the precursor deposition. Liang et al. [ 60 ] first discovered a controllable perovskite crystallization rate with the application of 1,8-diiodooctane (DIO) to the precursor solution. They found that the additives reduced transformation kinetics and allow a homogeneous crystal growth. Thus, more pinhole-free perovskite crystals were produced hence the surface morphology and device performance were improved. A PCE of 11.8% was accomplished through this process. Since then, more additives were demonstrated enhancing the device efficiency, such as NH 4 Cl [ 61 ], HI [ 62 ] and CH 3 NH 3 Cl [ 63 ].

The proper adjustment of composition would also benefit the PCE of devices. Recently, a PCE of 20.26% was claimed by Nazeeruddin et al. [ 64 ]. Their achievement was accomplished not only due to the complex additive of Li-bis(trifluoromethanesulfonyl) imide, FK209 [tris(2-(1H-pyrazol-1-yl)-4-tert-butylpyridine)-cobalt(III) tris(bis(trifluoromethylsulfonyl) imide) and 4-tertbutylpyridine but also a different precursor preparation technique by starting with a mixture of MAI and FAI. Also, the band gap tuning of perovskite would be accomplished by either modifying the organic cations or adjusting halide anion ratios [ 65 ]. Corresponding device performance change had already been appeared in some reports with reproducible results [ 15 , 66 , 67 ].

Although spin-coating is used for the fabrication of PSC layers, successful devices processed on other non-vacuum based approaches had also been reported, including doctor-blade coating [ 68 ], spray coating [ 69 ], inkjet printing [ 70 ] and slot die coating [ 71 ]. All those approaches could be considered as alternative pathways for the fabrication of PSC. However, a general disadvantage of those methods is the poor control on perovskite surface morphology, which would highly affect the performance of PCE of PSCs.

3.1.2. Two-Step Method

The perovskite deposition by two steps requires no complete precursor preparation but separate the coating of PbX 2 (X=Cl, Br or I) and MAI/FAI layers. First, a PbX 2 seed layer would be fabricated (spin-coating, doctor blading) on a substrate. Next, the MAI/FAI incorporation would be done by either dipping the PbX 2 -covered substrate into MAI/FAI solution (normally isopropanol) [ 72 ] or spin-coating of MAI/FAI [ 73 ] solution. The final perovskite films would be formed after proper baking. Although steps become more complicated, the morphology and quality of perovskite films could be better controlled via adjusting parameters in either step, which is more process-tunable than one-step fabrication.

In 1998, IBM [ 74 ] first synthesized perovskite on glass substrate. After 15 years, the Grätzel Group successfully fabricated the first perovskite cell that had 15% efficiency [ 75 ] by using this approach. Due to similar principles of one-step and two-step methods, proper solution engineering including solvent mixing and use of additives could be also applicable to two-step-fabricated PSCs: Li et al. [ 76 ] reported an improved PCE of 17.16% with mixing DMSO with DMF due to better coordination of DMSO with PbI 2 and an extra intermolecular exchange between DMSO and MAI, which assisted the decomposition of intermediate state and the formation of perovskite. Figure 10 showed a schematic process draw to display the reaction between MAI and PbI 2 at the outer solvent shell. Another work demonstrated the addition of a trace amount of H 2 O would also reduce voids and pinholes on the PbI 2 precursor layer and generated an efficiency of 18% and a remarkable fill factor of 85% [ 77 ]. The record PSC using two-step method could already achieved a PCE of 20.2% by introducing PTAA and taking advantage of intramolecular exchange with DMSO catalysis [ 15 ]. The device shown in Figure 11 had little hysteresis effect and this new method assisted grain growth.

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A schematic draw of the DMSO-assisted two-step MAPbI 3 synthesis and film growth (Reprinted with permission) [ 76 ].

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SEM observations and J-V and EQE measurements. ( A ) Cross-sectional FESEM image of the device; ( B ) The comparison of FESEM surface images of FAPbI3-based layer formed on mp-TiO 2 by IEP and conventional method. ( C ) ( a ) J-V curves of best device measured with a 40-ms scanning delay in reverse (from 1.2 V to 0 V) and forward (from 0 V to 1.2 V) modes under AM 1.5G illumination and ( b ) EQE spectra for best device and integrated JSC (Reprinted with permission) [ 15 ].

Since two-step fabrication relies on a second MAI immersion/layer fabrication, the perovskite formation may not be as complete as in one single precursor solution. Someone considered that due to low temperature and short-time mixing (less than 1 min) during spin-coating, the diffusion of MAI into PbI 2 lattice is not fast enough to form the perovskite crystals [ 78 ], or maybe only enough to form perovskite on the PbI 2 surface, in which the perovskite layer blocked further diffusion of MAI to the inner part of PbI 2 [ 79 ]. In general, the non-stoichiometry would have negative effect on the device efficiency. Another disadvantage comes from the partial dissolving of perovskite during the second step. Relevant researches have already proven that such mass migration speed in step two, as shown in Figure 12 , could be very fast, depending on the properties of solvent [ 80 ]. The most direct result could be a rough surface with pinholes and voids, which could be easily formed during two-step process. This drawback could be resolved with addition of suitable chemical or use of low-concentration of MAI/FAI solution in order to improve the perovskite crystal growth condition.

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Cross-sectional FESEM and images of dissolved PCSs obtained after 30 s immersion of spiro-MeOTAD/MALI/mp-TiO 2 /TCG in ( a ) non-polar; ( b ) polar protic and ( c ) polar aprotic solvents. Diethyl ether, water and DMF, respectively, were used as the representative solvents. Scale bars, 700 nm (Reprinted with permission) [ 80 ].

3.1.3. Vapor-Assisted Solution Method

Vapor-assisted solution method could be considered as a modified two-step method. During the second step, vaporized MAI/FAI reacted with PbI 2 to form perovskite phase after further film annealing. Ideally, this approach could guarantee a better contact between both precursors than in the solution. Furthermore, this method successfully avoids the partial perovskite dissolving especially during the dipping process. Therefore, the perovskite film stoichiometry could be also improved. Chen et al. [ 81 ] developed this approach by using as-synthesized MAI vapor (very small particles) applied on spin-coated PbI 2 precursor under a 150 °C baking. The whole perovskite fabrication was done in glove box. They reported µm-scale grain formation, full phase transition and film coverage. Their best planar device revealed a PCE of 12.1%. The only disadvantage was the key process lasted for hours, rather than minutes for spin-coating. This approach was later modified with an as-grown perovskite layer, where a two-step as-deposited MAPbCl 3−x I x on ITO/PEDOT:PSS substrate was then transferred into a closed petri dish container and heated together with MACl powder starting from 100 °C, which resulted a great PCE improvement of 15.1% with a 60-day stability [ 82 ]. Figure 13 offered a detail description about this process, where both upper and lower dish are linked with a Teflon ring to against the possible leakage. But other details such as the heat-treatment duration was not mentioned. Recently, a device with a planar structure of FTO/compact-TiO 2 /C 60 /(FA) x (MA) 1−x PbI 3 /spiro-OMeTAD/Au was fabricated by heating FTO/c-TiO 2 /C 60 /PbI 2 with uniformly-spread FAI and MAI powders in low vacuum under 170 °C for 30 min. By adjusting the powder ratio, they finally achieved a PCE of 16.48% [ 83 ]. The vapor-assisted PSC, as an advanced two-step approach, is getting close to the champion PSC devices and could be expected great breakthrough in the future, if the heat treatment time could be reduced in the same level of one-step/two-step methods.

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( a ) Schematic drawing of vapor-assisted perovskite deposition process; ( b ) actual lab set-up mentioned by Khadka et al. [ 82 ] (Reprinted with permission).

3.1.4. Thermal Vapor Deposition

Thermal vapor deposition is among the most widely used methods in device-level thin film fabrication. The ease of source control (element/compound) and parameters such as deposition time and current/voltage guarantees film composition and surface uniformity. The first reported thermal-vapor-deposited perovskite was reported by Mitzi et al. [ 84 ]. Liu et al. [ 85 ] applied a co-evaporation with sources of MAI and PbCl 2 /PbI 2 on rotated substrate and they fabricated a planar structure PSC of 15.4%. Figure 14 showed the evaporation system and film XRD spectra, where vacuum-deposited sample could also maintain same crystal structure after post-annealing. A further research unveiled that during co-evaporation, the reaction between PbCl 2 and MAI tended to form PbI 2 at first, then transferred into MAPbI 3 under continuous MAI incorporation. Finally, the residual MAI would be found in a form of MAPbI 3 ·xMAI [ 86 ]. This compositional change could be easily found out due to clear color change as shown in Figure 15 . Dual-source thermal evaporation was also applied for fabricating other kinds of PSCs: Ma et al. [ 87 ] reported a CsPbIBr 2 cell by using CsI and PbBr 2 as evaporation sources. They acquired a PCE of 3.7% under forward scan and an efficiency of 4.7% under reverse scan. MAPbI 3 compound source was also applied for vacuum thermal evaporation: Liang et al. [ 88 ] reported a successful MAPbI 3 film fabrication by using their synthesized MAPbI 3 crystals as the powder source. After a vacuum deposition under 500 W for 15 min with a 100 °C post-annealing for 20 min, they fabricated a smooth, densely-packed MAPbI 3 thin film with great visible light absorption. However, no further device fabrication and characterization information was found. Also, those vacuum-evaporated devices rarely showed a PCE comparable with solution-based PSCs.

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( a ) Schematic draw of dual-source thermal evaporation and the organic source was methylammonium iodide (MAI) and PbCl 2 ; ( b ) XRD spectra of a solution-processed perovskite film (blue) and vapor-deposited perovskite film (red) (Reprinted with permission) [ 85 ].

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( a ) XRD spectra, ( b ) UV-vis absorbance and ( c – g ) photographs of the evaporated films at different MAI/PbI 2 ratio (Reprinted with permission) [ 86 ].

Although few reports agreed the thermal vapor deposition could be an effective method on PSC fabrication due to both low efficiency and extra vacuum preparation, which could increase the total cost. Thermal evaporation has its own advantages on forming fully-covered, pinhole-free films and a combination of thermal evaporation with conventional solution-based method may be expected with a better surface coverage, which equals to better device performance. Tao et al. [ 89 ] reported a PCE of 17.6% with the perovskite layer prepared by first evaporating a PbI 2 layer and then spin-coating a MAI layer followed by annealing at 100 °C, 80 min, indicating future possibility for a hybrid fabrication approach. Besides, co-evaporated MAPbI 3 was also sandwiched between organic charge transport layers. With a slow deposition rate of 0.5 Å/s, Malinkiewicz et al. [ 90 ] claimed a PCE of 12%. This approach was later modified by Calio et al. [ 91 ] through applying different charge transport layers above and below perovskite layer. Their best device achieved an efficiency close to 15%.

Other similar vacuum-based methods, such as layer-by-layer evaporation [ 92 ] and chemical vapor deposition [ 93 ] was also reported. Carefully monitoring evaporation profile is necessary to enhance film quality because of the low thermal stability of perovskite materials like MAPbI 3 . Due to higher complexity of those vacuum-based approach than most widely-used spin-coating, thermal vapor deposition is still not the mainstream for PSC fabrication.

3.2. Fabrication of Other Components in PSC

The n -type electron transport layer is directly relevant to the performance of PSC. The generated electron-hole pairs inside perovskite would experience charge separation at ETM/perovskite interface and form the output current. Proper ETM could also affect the growth and coverage of perovskite. A suitable ETM should have a proper band alignment: a low-enough lowest unoccupied molecular orbit (LUMO) or CBM between contact and perovskite to allow electron separation and transport, also an adequate band gap to block holes. The ETM should be also stable enough to protect the internal perovskite with HTM layer to avoid external damages especially from moisture.

Metal oxides, such as TiO 2 , are the most common used ETMs. Originated from the successful service in DSSC, TiO 2 was the first ETM in PSC fabrication and is still used in many high-efficiency PSCs. Studies had shown TiO 2 a perfect band structure and great electron mobility for both crystal and mesoporous structures [ 94 ]. According to different device structures, the TiO 2 layer could be sorted as two-layer compact/mesoporous (mp) and one-layer planar structure. Mostly, the bi-layer TiO 2 was fabricated by a sequential deposition where the dense compact layer was done by spray pyrolysis and the mp-TiO 2 was fabricated by spin coating, which was also applied in one-layer TiO 2 fabrication. But many alternative fabrication methods have also been demonstrated successful and corresponding results are summarized in Table 1 . On considering the cost-effectiveness, most fabrication methods are non-vacuum based with a following high temperature annealing. However, TiO 2 was also found to be responsible for UV instability of perovskite and a UV filter was suggested for further TiO 2 -based PSCs’ application [ 95 ]. Detail mechanism would be discussed later in this review. Besides, the PSCs with planar TiO 2 were also mostly reported with a device hysteresis. Thus, more inorganic ETMs with similar band structure (ZnO, SnO 2 , BaSnO 3 , etc.) [ 11 , 17 , 96 ] are reported with great PCEs. N -type doping was also tried for band engineering in order to enhance the voltage potential and charge injection speed, which are directly relevant with V oc and J sc . The current published record 21.2% PSC was fabricated with a Li-doped BaSnO 3 (LBSO) [ 17 ]. Post-annealing treatments were also applied to improve surface morphology of ETM. Cojocaru et al. [ 97 ] reported an enhanced PCE with better TiO 2 morphology through TiCl 4 and UV treatment. Moreover, different ETM configurations, such as nano-rods [ 98 ], were also developed to enhance carrier transportation.

A summary of PSCs’ performance with different ETM/HTM pairs, fabrication methods were also labelled. All materials without labelling were spin-coated.

Organic ETMs, as a replacement of metal oxides, started from C 60 and PCBM [ 113 , 116 ]. However, the low PCE leaded to further modifications such as n-type doping, solution engineering and interface control. Also, pairs of organic-inorganic ETL had been reported in inverted mesoporous devices and recently, some self-synthesized n-type small organic molecules also appeared in high-efficiency PSCs. At present, organic ETMs only appeared in superstrate-configured devices. Although organic ETMs had been proved to be a suitable hole blocking layer, the possible low compact between those organic ETMs and ITO/FTO substrates could be the key to this issue.

The application of graphene/graphene oxide inside the ETM also started attracting research attention. Graphene has been demonstrated with great carrier mobility and transparency, which is expected to be an enhancement inside the typical ETM layers. Relevant research progress has achieved a device efficiency of 14.5% where small portion of r-GO was mixed with mesoporous TiO 2 ETM. The application of graphene-related component in either ETM or HTM, although still has distance with top-record PSCs, still deserved more attention and efforts [ 118 ].

The first demonstrated HTM was spiro-MeOTAD as a replacement of corrosive liquid electrolyte. This compound could be found in many top-level PSCs. Meanwhile, other HTMs with suitable electronic structure such as PEDOT: PSS [ 116 ], PTAA [ 102 ], NiO [ 114 ], CuSCN [ 100 ] were also applied in the fabrication of PSC. Among them, PTAA is becoming an excellent replacement of spiro-OMeTAD and it is already appeared in the current record device. These reported HTMs could be summarized into three categories: organic polymers, inorganic compounds and small molecules. While typical HTM fabrication approaches are spin-coating, few reports also mentioned other methods including spray [ 119 ] and sputtering [ 115 ] for inorganic HTMs. Corresponding information was listed in Table 1 .

Proper doping is also a common enhancement for HTMs as in ETMs. For spiro-MeOTAD, the widely accepted dopants are the bis(tri-uoromethylsulfonyl) amine lithium salt (Li-TFSI), 4-tertbutylpyridine (TBP) and a series of organic cobalt salt such as tris(2-(1H-pyrazol-1-yl) pyridine) cobalt(III) tris(hexafluorophosphate) (FK102) and tris(2-(1H-pyrazol-1-yl)-4-tert -butylpyridine)-cobalt(III)-tris(bis(tri-fluoromethylsulfonyl) imide) (FK209) [ 120 , 121 ]. However, Li-TFSI would have a side effect for perovskite degradation [ 122 ]. Other methods such as modifying the molecular structure could be found in other literature [ 123 ].

At present, PSCs without ETM or HTM part had also been developed to avoid the high cost of ETM and HTM synthesis and fabrication. In those designs, the ETM or HTM was replaced by contacts with modified band structure in order to extract carriers. The perovskite layer could also be blended to possibly enhance the charge separation. Delgado et al. [ 124 ] showed an ETM-free perovskite/fullerene cell with a PCE of 14.3%. Duan et al. [ 125 ] also applied an ultra-thin graphite as the hole-extractor and acquired a PCE of 14.07%. However, those designs still had a relative weak performance due to lack of efficient carrier extractor. However, they could be helpful to understand the solar cell physics inside the perovskite layer.

4. Challenges

4.1. cell stability.

Since PSCs has already achieved comparable performance against the Si-based PVs, the biggest challenge for PSC is to demonstrate device stability to be a suitable alternative PV technology of silicon. Reports about some long-term device characterization have been published during recent years [ 126 , 127 , 128 , 129 ] but most of those tests are processed in a relatively mild condition. Even under those conditions, the performance of PSCs was still not optimistic. Meanwhile, various works discovered the instability of perovskite under moisture [ 130 ], oxygen [ 131 ] and UV [ 132 ]. The perovskite materials and fabrication process also contain traps for perovskite degradation [ 133 ]. Thus, more understanding and improvement are required to upscaling of the performance of PSCs.

4.1.1. Stability of Perovskite Materials

Crystal structure stability.

Crystal structure and phase transition would largely affect material properties. For the ABX 3 perovskite materials, its stability could be described with the well-known tolerance factor from Goldschmidt (1927):

where, r A , r B and r 0 are ionic radius for organic cation A, inorganic cation B and halide anion X, respectively. The ideal cubic perovskite structure would have a t = 1 and the cubic structure can only be acquired when 0.89 < t < 1 [ 6 ]. Lower tolerance factor means lower symmetry and the perovskite would shift to orthorhombic or tetragonal structure, which would give a negative effect on the opto-electronic properties of perovskite [ 134 ]. Most stable perovskite materials have to satisfy a 0.8 < t < 1 [ 135 ] and the most stable perovskite material is still MAPbI 3 , which has a tolerance factor slightly higher than 0.9 [ 136 ].

Besides the ion radius, the temperature and pressure could also affect perovskite phase transition: MAPbI 3 was known to have a phase transition from cubic to tetragonal around 55 °C, which is within the operation temperature range of solar cells (−40 °C to 85 °C). Other researches about perovskite phase transition found that as temperature increased, the perovskite phase would transit from lower symmetry to higher symmetry (orthorhombic-tetragonal-cubic) [ 31 , 32 ]. Weber et al. also discovered MAPbBr 3 and MAPbCl 3 could maintain better symmetry than MAPbI 3 from −40 °C to 85 °C and further details are shown in Table 2 [ 137 ]. However, PSCs solely with those two kinds of light absorbers have not shown significant high efficiency and mixed halide PSCs, even though claimed to have a better performance than MAPbI 3 , was still not comparable with the record devices. Another early study showed FAPbI 3 had a better thermal stability. The corresponding phase transition temperature of FAPbI 3 lied at 150 °C [ 138 ]. However, FAPbI 3 is also reported highly unstable under moisture, which is also required during stability testing. Their work also reported a better thermal stability of an alternative MASnI 3 and could maintain cubic phase under room temperature [ 139 ]. The pressure could also trigger perovskite phase transition, as another study claimed—as pressure increased as from 0 to 0.3 to 2.7 GPa, their MAPbI 3 experienced phase transition of tetragonal-cubic-orthorhombic. After 4.7 GPa, the amorphous phase started appearing and lead a phase separation [ 140 ].

Phase transition points of MAPbX 3 (X=CI, Br, I) [ 137 ].

Figure 16 showed a clear XRD pattern change along with pressure loading and unloading. A more detailed discussion focused on lower pressure range (<200 MPa) showed pressure has much less impact on MAPbX 3 (X=Cl, Br, I) phase transition [ 141 ]. Therefore, perovskite is expected to be suitable for normal applications without high pressure.

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XRD patterns of MAPbI 3 during ( a ) compression and ( b ) decompression. The highlighted by broken-lined boxes are peaks for cubic phase; ( c , d ) are 2D XRD patterns at specific pressures (Reprinted with permission) [ 140 ].

In addition, the temperature would also lead to perovskite decomposition. Pisoni et al. [ 142 ] reported the low thermal conductivity of MAPbI 3 and equivalent results were calculated by other groups [ 143 , 144 ]. Moreover, since the decomposition of MAPbX 3 (X=Cl, Br, I) was observed starting from 130 °C as new peaks shown in XRD patterns (see Figure 17 ) [ 145 ], those kinds of perovskite would most likely suffer an efficiency lost during the long-term device operation due to accumulated light-generated heat inside the light absorber.

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XRD patterns of MAPbX 3 after each isotherm in the non-ambient reactor chamber (Reprinted with permission) [ 145 ].

Environmental Stability

During device operation, the moisture, oxygen from air and high-energy photon from UV would decompose the perovskite layer within adequate time duration. A possible reaction mechanism is shown below [ 146 ]. As described in Equations (2)–(5), with adequate moisture injected into perovskite, the MAI would be dissolved in moisture and left inorganic halide. The organic-halide would continue the hydrolysis and release HI. Since HI could be continually consumed with the assistance from oxygen and photon, the decomposition is irreversible with the existence of moisture. In addition, the perovskite itself and organic cation also tend to decompose under continuous sunlight exposure (Equations (6)–(9)). However, according to those decomposition mechanism, the oxygen itself could hardly trigger the perovskite decomposition and studies also suggested perovskite samples could be stored in dry and dark environment [ 13 ]. Aging test of PSCs under white light without UV source also demonstrated acceptable device stability [ 75 ].

Studies have shown the relations between air humidity and perovskite decomposition: Kelly et al. [ 147 ] showed a positive correlation between humidity and PCE: as relative humidity (RH) increased from 50% to 80% in N 2 , the absorption at 410 nm drastically decreased. Their work also proved proper HTM layer could reduce the moisture invasion rate by maintaining a good coverage. However, such effect could only last few hours and later, the absorption would continue fast decreasing. Moreover, Han et al. [ 148 ] showed the perovskite degradation could be more severe with the corporation of humidity and temperature: as shown in Figure 17 , the device PCE would be almost zeroed under AM 1.5G within 20 h under high temperature (55 °C in air and 85 °C for internal device temperature) and RH (80%).

Due to such side effects from oxygen, UV and mostly moisture, the preparation of perovskite was mostly processed inside the glove box. However, some studies showed that proper relative humidity. According to Gangishetty et al. [ 149 ], higher RH could be helpful on enlarging perovskite crystal sizes and better connections among crystals during two-step fabrication. A later study displayed a possible best combination of ambient humidity and annealing time during perovskite fabrication: Their best device was fabricated under 20% RH and 45 min post-annealing [ 150 ]. However, although the humidity-incorporated synthesis process had successfully produced a planar PSC with 19.3% PCE [ 151 ]. The moisture offered an extra solubility for organic precursors but also leaded a PCE decrease to less than 5% after few days under ambient atmosphere.

The degradation of perovskites by UV light could be originated at the TiO 2 layer. With assistance from UV light, TiO 2 could interact with I − and form I 2 as in typical DSSCs. Therefore, it could destroy the perovskite crystal structure and strengthen the ionic reaction process of organic cations [ 152 ]. Moreover, a further study on UV degradation mechanism found with UV-AM 1.5G illumination cycle could partially recover the device performance. It is the hole traps accumulated on the perovskite/TiO 2 interface and flowed into other charge transport layer due to insufficient charge neutralization [ 153 ]. Those traps were also reasons of lower J sc during following AM 1.5G illumination. Figure 18 and Figure 19 displayed their UV-1 sun cycling illumination test results and possible mechanism. Thus, several methods had been tried to separate perovskite and TiO 2 . Besides the Sb 2 S 3 inserting reported by Ito et al. [ 152 ]. Applying a UV-filter on the TCO substrate before TiO 2 deposition and several reports also showed the stability improvement. However, compared with other two approaches, the UV-filter might trigger an unavoidable fabrication cost increasing due to extra materials cost. Since PSCs have to pass the more important aging tests under high temperature and high RH in order to pass the stability standards of thin film PV, the UV problem is currently not owing high priority.

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( A ) Stability testing of PSCs sealed by method A under three different environmental conditions; ( B ) comparison of the stability of devices sealed by method A and B and tested under environmental condition (iii). All PCEs are already normalized (Reprinted with permission) [ 148 ].

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UV degradation/recovery cycle of ( a ) PCE; ( b ) FF; ( c ) R s and ( d ) J sc for device subjected to a range of UV exposure and 1-sun illumination. Purple regions represent UV exposure and yellow regions represent 1-sun light illumination periods (Reprinted with permission) [ 153 ].

Recently, the application of graphene and its relevant oxides in the PSCs has attracted attentions. Experiments already demonstrated that graphene, due to its outstanding carrier mobility and high transparency, could be able to enhance the device performance of PSCs [ 118 ]. The contribution of graphene to PSCs, however, could also contain the device stability and the extension of the lifetime of perovskite. Graphene/graphene-oxides could replace the HTM/ETM layer or inserted between perovskite and other HTM/ETM or between HTM/ETM and metal contacts. Due to the wetting transparency of 2D graphene [ 154 ], the decomposition of perovskite could be released. The small lattice size of 2D graphene could also resist the inter-diffusion of metal ions from either perovskite or metal contact [ 155 ]. Agresti et al. investigated the effect of graphene and graphene oxide [ 156 ] and their results indicated that the graphene oxide would join the perovskite decomposition reactions at high intensities. The graphene added inside the mesoporous TiO 2 , however, could improve the device stability under both dark and continuous illumination environment due to faster carrier transportation. They also suggested that PSCs with graphene/graphene oxide would suffer an efficiency and J sc loss under prolonged thermal stress. Doped graphene could be also suitable for increasing the stability of PSCs. Bi et al. [ 157 ] reported a stable PSCs with its PCBM layer mixed with n-type graphene. The device efficiency was stable for 500 h at 85 °C. Thus, it can be expected that, due to excellent electrical properties of graphene, new contacts based on graphene rather than metals could be considered. Therefore, both device stability and efficiency might be improved.

Graphene is not the only 2D material that helps improving the stability of PSCs. Other materials that can be prepared by the mechanical exfoliation method has been also tried in PSCs to increase the device stability and efficiency. One investigation applied a combined structure of graphene/MoS 2 at the interface of PCBM/Ag. The addition of this mixed interlayer increased the parameters of PSC as well as the stability of J sc , V oc and PCE for the initial several hours [ 158 ]. Chen et al. even fabricated the typical carrier transport material, TiO 2 , into a 2D structure (2D atomic sheets of titania) [ 159 ]. Their results showed that the PCE of their PSCs could be comparable with the standard PSCs by optimizing the number of 2D-TiO 2 layers. This new structure of TiO 2 , according to their investigation, could also reduce the UV absorption, which is one of the key to the decomposition of perovskite.

4.1.2. Stability of Other Components

Low stability of other components (HTM, electrodes and etc.), like lower-quality perovskite, would also largely minimized the device performance of PSC. Since most developed HTM candidates are organic compounds, such as the most typical spiro-OMeTAD based HTM series, the temperature control becomes a vital factor. A detailed report form Wu et al. [ 160 ] showed that, although low temperature annealing could enhance the formation and crystallization of spiro-OMeTAD, the transfer of additive Li-TFSI to the TiO 2 surface and the evaporation of 4-tert-butylpyridine (TBP), also another common additive, would both compress the device voltage potential by changing fermi level of TiO 2 . Therefore, the device acquired lower V oc . In addition, spiro-OMeTAD, as discussed by Kelly et al. [ 147 ], may suffer from cracking during the fabrication process. Thus, the internal perovskite would be easily exposed and device degradation may be accelerated. The mechanism of UV degradation and recovery of PSCs is given in Figure 20 [ 153 ].

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Schematic draw of the proposed mechanisms for UV degradation and recovery of PSCs (Reprinted with permission) [ 153 ].

As a consequence, other stable HTM layers including o,p-dimethoxyphenyl-based biphenyl (HL-1) and carbazole (HL-2) [ 161 ], single-walled carbon nanotube (SWCNT) enhancement [ 162 ], tetrathiafulvalene derivative (TTF-1) [ 96 ], poly(3-hexylthiophene) (P3HT) [ 163 ] had been developed and literatures showed great progress on device stability. Recently, a French group reported a stable PSC with CuSCN inserted between Spiro-OMeTAD and gold electrode. The device efficiency only lost 5% after 1000 h running under 60 °C in nitrogen atmosphere. Another test under more realistic environment (85 °C, 1000 h, air, dark) showed a 15% efficiency loss. The thin layer of CuSCN was believed to block the metal diffusion, which is the reason for device degradation [ 164 ]. Although more realistic testing of durability (e.g., 85 °C, 1000 h and high humidity) is still necessary before the industrial application of perovskite, this result showed a noteworthy progress of the stability of PSCs. In addition, a hydrophobic HTM could be another plus due to the irreversible perovskite corrosion from the moisture.

4.2. J-V Hysteresis

Another barrier for PSC’s further development is the J-V hysteresis, which was observed when applying different voltage sweeping rates and directions [ 165 ]. The best efficiency results are usually acquired at V oc rather than J sc , P max or under reverse bias condition. Two major categories of hysteresis have been found: normal and invert hysteresis. The normal hysteresis leads to a higher efficiency during reversed bias scan (voltage decreases) but lower efficiency during the opposite scan. The inverted hysteresis goes exactly the opposite way. These two kinds of hysteresis could exist together or appear separately depending on the applied pre-poling bias [ 166 ]. Different voltage sweeping rate would also change efficiency results and these changes of device parameters are mostly random. Such phenomenon is also not relevant with device structure. Therefore, rather than other kind of PV technology, standardizing PSC measurement becomes a challenging task and even those reported progress, including both PCE and device stability breakthrough, might become questionable. Although recent reports claimed that their devices displayed a low or little J-V hysteresis during PCE measurements [ 167 , 168 ] although this J-V hysteresis is still noticeable during most of the PSC characterizations.

The mechanism of hysteresis is still unknown but several hypotheses had been established. Ferroelectric polarization [ 169 ], ion migration [ 170 ], charge trapping [ 171 ] and capacitive effects [ 172 ]. Several reviews already offered intensive discussion about those hypothesis [ 173 , 174 ]. Recent research starts to support that both ion migration and charge trapping could the reasons for the J-V hysteresis and relevant detail discussion can be found elsewhere [ 175 ]. Since J-V hysteresis had such negative effect, improved PCE measurements technique was suggested [ 176 , 177 ].

5. Toxicity

The toxicity of perovskite comes from the widely-used lead inside MAPbI 3 and environmental concerns would be appeared especially on the issue of large-scale fabrication waste treatment. Although calculations already showed the possible contamination from perovskite would be relatively insignificant compared with other lead pollutions [ 178 ] and the production of PSC could be able to use waste lead from daily waste [ 179 ], studies on lead-free PSCs cannot be neglected. Tin was the first well-studied replacement metal cation since Sn and Pb are both carbon periodic elements, thus, MASnI 3 is believed to be able to maintain the same crystal structure as MAPbI 3 . The fact, as shown by Noel et al. [ 180 ], is that Sn 2+ could be easily oxidized to Sn 4+ , leading a weak device performance. Other trials of introducing organic/inorganic additives to retard tin oxidation had also been reported [ 181 , 182 ] but their device PCE was still not promising.

Due to this chemical instability of pure tin-based perovskite materials, the hybrid Sn-Pb metal cations in perovskite could be more realistic and the more advanced PCE also demonstrated this idea: Zhu et al. [ 183 ] reported a remarkable PCE of 15.2% with a light absorber of MASn 0.25 Pb 0.75 I 3 and a suitable control of DMSO additive and a PCBM:C 60 electron transport layer. Another study also indicated MASn 1-x Pb x I 3 could have an electronic structure closer to MASnI 3 than MAPbI 3 even with few Sn replacement [ 184 ]. All those results indicated that from the view of reducing process toxicity, tin is not a perfect candidate to totally replace lead due to its chemical instability.

Another intensive-studied candidate is the neighbor of lead: bismuth. Bi could form a stable (MA) 3 Bi 3 I 9 (MABI) perovskite material. Its crystal structure was shown in Figure 21 [ 185 ]. Similar as Sn-doped MAPbI 3 , MABI also showed better stability under ambient air for 1000 h [ 186 ]. The first reported MABI-based perovskite only reached a low efficiency of 0.12% with a relatively low V oc of 0.68 V and an extremely low J sc of 0.52 mA/cm 2 [ 187 ]. At present, the Bi-based perovskite could only able to reach an efficiency of 0.42% due to low J sc [ 188 ]. A recent study investigated the absorption and recombination dynamics of excitations inside the MABI crystals: the I(5p)-Bi(6p), I(6p) excitation [ 189 ] is localized in (BI 3 ) - units, resulting little free carriers released at the MABI/TiO 2 interface [ 190 ]. Therefore, they suggested considering bulk-heterojunction structure with nano-scale MABI crystals in order to possibly enhance the low J sc . Some other reports focused on Bi-based halide double perovskites such as Cs 2 AgBiX 6 (X=Br, Cl) [ 191 ] and (MA) 2 KBiCl 6 [ 192 ]. But no effective devices had been reported and deep understanding of optoelectronic properties are still suggested. Thus, Bi-based PSC is still not promising at present, even compared with Sn.

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Crystal structure of (CH 3 NH 3 ) 3 Bi 2 I 9 (MBI): ( a ) local structure of the (Bi 2 I 9 ) 3− anion; ( b ) cation and anion positions in the unit cell (Reprinted with permission) [ 185 ].

Other types of lead-free perovskites such as CsGeI 3 [ 193 ], MAGeX 3 (X: Cl, Br, I) [ 194 ], MASrI 3 [ 195 ], MACaI 3 [ 196 ] had also been reported but those materials are either not suitable for visible light absorption due to large band gap [ 195 , 196 ], or only showed low efficiency of less than 1%. Most of the material characterizations are still in lack. Thus, non-toxic perovskite development and corresponding fabrication of PSCs still has a long way before replacing the position of lead.

6. Discussion and Future Research Efforts

The above research efforts indicated that the PSCs will have a greater potential for commercialization if the stability of cells can be improved. The high efficiency and low-cost manufacturability to harvest terawatt levels by solar energy are very attractive with this next generation solar cell technology. The cell degradability is identified as due to primarily the exposure of perovskite layer to water vapor and heating effects, which change the active phase of lead-based perovskites. There are numerous efforts to improve the stability of these solar cells by many groups worldwide. Development of perovskite layers using other metals has been tried with poor success to address the toxic issue and stabilizing the perovskite structures. Also, cell passivation has been investigated to stabilizing the cells by prevention of perovskite layer to the ambient. Another approach is to reduce the heating effect by utilizing IR absorbance layers or external components. Also, integration of few of these technologies may improve the stability of this solar cell technology from current stability records of around six months.

Also, it is important to address the harmfulness of lead-based compounds in PSCs. While development of other metal-based perovskite is also interested in the viewpoint of environmental protection, their effectiveness does not reach the efficiency of lead-based compounds. Furthermore, better recycling methodologies are important to prevent the transfer of lead compounds into the environments. Similar environmental issues have been addressed for CdTe solar cells and thus, it is possible to utilize already existing infrastructure for recycling and environmental protection issues. The environmental protection authority regulates the lead content of drinking water below 0.015 g/L. Authors believe that these areas can be further improved by research efforts.

It is also important to address that, due to the transparent nature of some of the HTM/ETM and the electrodes, the PSCs could be fabricated with a structure that could absorb sunlight from both directions. An investigation in 2016 already found out that, with the help of transparent solution-processed silver nanowires (AgNWs), an efficiency of more than 11% and 7.53% could be observed with front and back illumination, respectively [ 197 ]. Together with passivation of PCSs using transparent insulators such as polymers, the cell performance as well as durability may be enhanced. Thus, investigation on the bi-facial PSCs could also be another research direction for the improvements of PSCs.

7. Conclusions

The PSC has experienced a significant improvement from 3.8% to 22.1% since 2012 and the perovskite-based tandem cell has already achieved 26.7%, creating a new record in history of PV technology. Numerous research efforts on both PSC efficiency improvements and deeper understanding about perovskite materials’ outstanding electrical and optical properties, such as largely-tunable band gaps for light absorption, high absorption coefficients, large carrier diffusion lengths, great carrier mobility, have been established during the past few years. The current PSCs already combined structural advantages of both DSSCs and thin film PV since the discovery of perovskite and become a new challenger for Si-based PV dominant market share, not only due to record 22.1% efficiency for small area but also comparable larger-area device efficiency. The vast discovery and successful application of organic/inorganic charge transport materials and blocking layers also assisted the formation and crystallization of perovskites and helped charge transfers at the interfaces. Many kinds of PSC fabrication approaches have also been developed and most of them could fall into four major categories: one-step; two-step; vapor-assisted solution method; and thermal vapor deposition with a top PCE of 22.1% (current record), 20.26%, 16.48% and 17.6%, respectively. Also, numerous hybrid perovskite fabrication process was also invented, which is uncommon for other types of PVs. According to current progress, it is reasonable that the next high-efficiency PSC may be still based on solution-based approaches (e.g., spin coating) with a mixed perovskite phase, as applied in the record 22.1% and the stable 21.2% devices.

The PSCs still have great barriers for further improvements. The biggest problem comes with the natural instability of perovskite materials, especially the most widely-used MAPbI 3 . The phase transition within the range of solar cell operation temperature brought problems on device usage. The instability with varying temperature and pressure leads extra concerns for device fabrication. The moisture, UV light and oxygen would also bring irreversible damage to the perovskite layers, which largely reduced the device stability and commercialization of PSC. The efforts such as elemental adjusting, device sealing and extra blocking layer inside the device had been tried to solve these problems but more stability tests under harsh environments are strongly suggested for PSCs to reach the required standard.

Other drawbacks such as J-V hysteresis and toxicity of lead made it difficult to further improve the performance of PSCs. While the mechanism of hysteresis was still inconclusive, the lead toxic has attracted many research efforts on considering the non-toxic replacement pf perovskite materials. Research work found out that all candidates, from the neighborhood Sn, Bi and new candidates as Cs, Ge, suffered a great loss of J sc , which directly leads to the huge loss in PCE. A more complicated replacement profile might be the solution of lead-free PSCs. Although efforts claimed low hysteresis in some PSCs, deep theoretical understanding and standardized testing protocol is suggested for PSCs.

Perovskite, compared with other PV techniques (thin film, organic, dye-sensitized), could be the best alternative solar absorber. As efforts on better perovskite layer formation and longer device durability, even the lead-based PSCs could be able to share a certain part of PV market. Such trend could influence further research and development (R&D) efforts towards higher-stable and non-toxic devices.

Acknowledgments

One of the authors, Zhengqi Shi, would like to acknowledge the financial assistance given by the University of Toledo for this study.

Author Contributions

Both authors have analyzed the literature and prepared this manuscript. This manuscript was prepared only for the educational purpose.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

  • Open access
  • Published: 04 February 2024

Examining the influence of thermal effects on solar cells: a comprehensive review

  • Lina M. Shaker 1 , 6 ,
  • Ahmed A. Al-Amiery 1 , 5 ,
  • Mahdi M. Hanoon 2 ,
  • Waleed K. Al-Azzawi 3 &
  • Abdul Amir H. Kadhum 4  

Sustainable Energy Research volume  11 , Article number:  6 ( 2024 ) Cite this article

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Solar energy has emerged as a pivotal player in the transition towards sustainable and renewable power sources. However, the efficiency and longevity of solar cells, the cornerstone of harnessing this abundant energy source, are intrinsically linked to their operating temperatures. This comprehensive review delves into the intricate relationship between thermal effects and solar cell performance, elucidating the critical role that temperature plays in the overall efficacy of photovoltaic systems. The primary objective of this review is to provide a comprehensive examination of how temperature influences solar cells, with a focus on its impact on efficiency, voltage, current output, and overall stability. By synthesizing existing knowledge and exploring recent advances in the field, we aim to elucidate the underlying mechanisms of thermal effects and offer insights into mitigating their adverse consequences. Our review encompasses a thorough discussion of the fundamentals of solar cells, including their operation and various types, before delving into the intricacies of thermal effects. We present an overview of experimental techniques for thermal analysis, factors influencing temperature variations, and strategies to alleviate thermal stresses. Additionally, we offer real-world case studies and discuss future trends and research directions, providing a comprehensive roadmap for advancing solar cell technology. In an era where the harnessing of solar energy has become increasingly vital, understanding and addressing thermal effects are imperative to maximize the efficiency and longevity of solar cells. This review article serves as a valuable resource for researchers, engineers, and policymakers by shedding light on the significance of thermal effects on solar cell performance and guiding the pursuit of innovative solutions in the quest for more efficient and sustainable photovoltaic systems.

Introduction

In an era of accelerating climate change and environmental challenges, the quest for sustainable and renewable energy sources has become paramount. Among the myriad alternatives, solar energy stands out as one of the most promising solutions to mitigate the world's growing energy demands while curbing greenhouse gas emissions (Kuşkaya et al., 2023 ). In this comprehensive review, we embark on a journey to explore a crucial facet of solar energy harnessing—the influence of thermal effects on solar cell performance. Through a detailed analysis of thermal effects and their impact on solar cell efficiency, voltage, and current output, we aim to shed light on a critical yet often overlooked aspect of photovoltaic technology. Solar energy has ascended to the forefront of the global energy landscape due to its abundance, accessibility, and sustainability. It represents a beacon of hope in a world grappling with the challenges posed by finite fossil fuel reserves and the environmental consequences of their combustion. The inexhaustible supply of sunlight offers a tantalizing solution to our energy needs, harnessing a clean, renewable resource that can reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and combat climate change (Akaev & Davydova, 2023 ). The transition to solar energy holds immense promise, not only for meeting our growing energy demands but also for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and minimizing the environmental impact of energy production. Solar power installations can be deployed at various scales, from residential rooftops to massive utility-scale solar farms, making it a versatile and scalable energy source that can be tailored to the needs of different regions and communities (Chanchangi et al., 2023 ).

At the heart of solar energy conversion lies the solar cell, a semiconductor device that transforms sunlight into electricity. The efficiency of these cells is a critical parameter that determines how effectively they can convert incoming sunlight into electrical power. Solar cell efficiency is defined as the ratio of the electrical energy output to the incoming solar energy input and is typically expressed as a percentage (Mohammad & Mahjabeen, 2023a ). Efficiency is the lifeblood of solar cell technology, as it directly impacts the cost-effectiveness of solar energy generation. High-efficiency solar cells can convert a larger portion of sunlight into electricity, reducing the number of cells and surface area required to generate a given amount of power. This, in turn, leads to lower installation and maintenance costs, making solar energy more accessible and economically viable (Bilal & Andajani, 2023 ). Understanding and mitigating thermal effects on solar cells is crucial for advancing the efficiency and reliability of solar energy systems. Solar cells, as the fundamental components of photovoltaic technology, exhibit intricate connections to temperature variations, significantly impacting their performance (Additional files 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 ).

The efficiency of solar cells, a pivotal parameter in converting sunlight into electrical energy, is intricately linked to temperature. As temperatures rise, electron–hole recombination rates within the solar cell increase. This temperature-induced acceleration, governed by the Arrhenius equation, leads to decreased efficiency. Elevated temperatures alter the dynamics of charge carriers, hindering their contribution to electrical current generation. The relationship between temperature and efficiency underscores the need for a nuanced examination to optimize solar cell performance. Temperature variations influence the bandgap properties of materials within solar cells (Asif, et al., 2023 ). Bandgap, representing the energy difference between valence and conduction bands, plays a crucial role in photon absorption. At higher temperatures, the bandgap of semiconductor materials can shift, impacting the range of photons they can absorb. Materials with smaller bandgaps may absorb lower-energy photons but may also be more susceptible to thermal losses. Understanding these alterations is essential for selecting materials that maintain optimal performance across diverse environmental conditions. Solar cells operate in diverse environments, from extreme heat in deserts to sub-zero temperatures in colder climates. Recognizing the impact of these conditions on solar cell performance is crucial for optimizing efficiency. Extreme temperatures introduce thermal stress, affecting overall stability and functionality. Therefore, a nuanced examination of thermal effects under different environmental conditions is essential for developing robust and reliable solar energy systems. In essence, the significance lies in the direct correlation between temperature variations and reduced efficiency. This knowledge is fundamental for researchers, engineers, and policymakers aiming to enhance solar energy systems' performance and overcome challenges posed by diverse environmental conditions (Bhore et al., 2023 ).

Exploring the current landscape of thermal effects on solar cells requires a comprehensive understanding of existing literature. This section provides an overview of recent studies, emphasizing the unique contributions of this review to the evolving field. While previous reviews have covered a broad spectrum of topics, ranging from experimental techniques to internal and external factors influencing solar cell performance, a discernible gap remains in synthesizing the latest advancements. In contrast to many existing reviews offering general overviews, this comprehensive review concentrates on recent developments, conducting a meticulous analysis of the most recent studies. The focused lens on the latest research findings distinguishes this review, ensuring an up-to-date and comprehensive analysis reflective of cutting-edge developments (Mohammad & Mahjabeen, 2023b ). This approach allows for a deeper exploration of the nuances associated with thermal effects on solar cells, contributing to a more detailed understanding of the subject matter. One unique aspect lies in the commitment to a meticulous analysis of the latest research findings. While other reviews may touch upon recent studies, this review goes further, critically examining and synthesizing these findings (Gerarden, 2023 ). The goal is to move beyond surface-level discussions and provide readers with insights into the methodological approaches, results, and implications of recent research. This commitment to a detailed analysis distinguishes this review as a valuable resource for researchers, practitioners, and stakeholders in the field of solar energy (Ye et al., 2023 ). To enhance the clarity of literature summarization, providing quantitative values for context becomes imperative. For instance, discussions on solar cell efficiency should include typical efficiency ranges to offer readers a more concrete understanding. By incorporating specific examples and findings, this section transitions from generic descriptions to a more data-driven and informative analysis. This approach not only strengthens the credibility of the review but also ensures that readers gain a more tangible grasp of the discussed concepts and their practical implications (Mohammad & Mahjabeen, 2023a ).

In exploring the existing landscape of thermal effects on solar cells, this literature review synthesizes insights from eight key articles, each contributing to the understanding of the nuances and challenges associated with thermal influences on solar cell performance. Gasparyan ( 2007 ) conducted a theoretical exploration, investigating the influence of temperature variations on a solar cell's short-circuit current and open-circuit voltage, presenting potential pathways for efficiency improvement (Gasparyan, 2007 ). Maka & O'Donovan ( 2022 ) focused on triple-junction solar cells, examining the impact of thermal load on performance parameters and emphasizing the critical role of thermal management (Maka & O'Donovan, 2022 ). Lakshmi and Desappan ( 2014 ) delved into temperature effects on solar cells, offering insights into the influence of temperature on various parameters in solar PV systems and addressing challenges associated with temperature variations (Ponnusamy & Desappan, 2014 ).

Ebhota and Tabakov ( 2023 ) investigated the influence of photovoltaic cell technologies and elevated temperature on photovoltaic system performance, providing comparative insights into the performance of crystalline silicon (c-Si) and copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS) PV cells (Ebhota & Tabakov, 2023 ). Barron-Gafford et al. ( 2016 ) studied the temperature effect of photovoltaic cells, synthesizing previous research and discussing mechanisms and progress in mitigating temperature effects. Sun et al. ( 2022 ) addressed the photovoltaic heat island effect, revealing that larger solar power plants increase local temperatures, challenging theoretical models and raising concerns for large-scale installations (Sun et al., 2022 ). Arifin and team ( 2020 ) explored the effect of heat sink properties on solar cell cooling systems, focusing on passive cooling systems and introducing a heat sink with fins to address solar cell overheating, demonstrating enhanced cooling capacity (Arifin & Suyitno, 2020 ). Mesquita et al. ( 2019 ) assessed the temperature impact on perovskite solar cells under operation, concentrating on perovskite solar cells and highlighting challenges associated with thermal stability during operation (Mesquita et al., 2019 ).

Distinct from these individual studies, the current review synthesizes insights from this array of research, providing a comprehensive overview of recent advancements in the study of thermal effects on solar cells. It distinguishes itself by offering a focused lens on recent developments, a meticulous analysis of the latest research findings, and an emphasis on quantitative values for enhanced clarity (Hasan et al., 2023 ). By bridging gaps left by existing reviews, this comprehensive analysis contributes to a nuanced understanding of the complexities associated with thermal effects on solar cells. While the individual studies mentioned contribute valuable insights, the current review distinguishes itself in several key aspects. By consolidating findings from diverse studies, it provides a comprehensive overview of recent advancements in thermal effects on solar cells. Focusing specifically on recent developments, the review ensures an up-to-date analysis that reflects cutting-edge research in the field. In contrast to some existing reviews that offer broad overviews, the current review stands out with its commitment to a meticulous analysis of the latest research findings, providing insights into methodological approaches, results, and implications (Additional files 5 , 6 , 7 , 8 , 9 ).

Moreover, the current review places a strong emphasis on the importance of quantitative values for context, enhancing clarity and delivering a more data-driven and informative analysis. By synthesizing insights from various studies, the current review significantly contributes to a nuanced understanding of the complexities associated with thermal effects on solar cells. In essence, it serves as a bridge, addressing gaps left by existing reviews, and offers a timely, detailed, and comprehensive analysis of recent advancements in the study of thermal effects on solar cells.

This comprehensive review is organized to offer a comprehensive understanding of how thermal effects impact the performance of solar cells. To facilitate a systematic exploration of this multifaceted topic, the article is divided into distinct sections, as illustrated in Fig.  1 .

figure 1

Comprehensive exploration of thermal effects on solar cells

The comprehensive aim of this review is dual-fold: firstly, to foster a profound comprehension of how thermal effects intricately influence solar cell performance, and secondly, to provide guidance for advancing solutions and innovations that can amplify the efficiency and reliability of photovoltaic systems. Our specific objectives encompass elucidating the mechanisms through which temperature impacts the electrical characteristics of solar cells, reviewing and analyzing various experimental methods and techniques employed for thermal analysis, examining the diverse factors contributing to temperature variations in solar cell environments, exploring strategies and technologies for mitigating the adverse effects of temperature, showcasing real-world case studies illustrating the practical significance of thermal effects, and highlighting emerging trends and research directions poised to propel the field of solar cell technology towards enhanced efficiency and sustainability in solar energy generation.

Solar cell basics

In our quest to understand the influence of thermal effects on solar cell performance, it is vital to commence with the fundamentals of solar cell operation (Asdrubali & Desideri, 2018 ). Solar cells, also known as photovoltaic (PV) cells, are semiconductor devices that directly convert sunlight into electricity (Igliński et al. 2023 ; Dixit et al., 2023 ). The operation of these devices is rooted in the photovoltaic effect, a phenomenon discovered by Alexandre-Edmond Becquerel in 1839 and later elucidated by Albert Einstein in 1905, which earned him the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1921 (Mohan et al., 2023 ; Singh et al., 2023 ). The fundamental principles governing the operation of a solar cell can be succinctly outlined as follows. Firstly, sunlight, comprising discrete energy packets known as photons, strikes the solar cell's surface. Photon absorption takes place when these photons possess energy equal to or greater than the bandgap energy of the semiconductor material within the cell (Najm et al., 2023 ). Subsequently, the absorbed photons transfer their energy to electrons, elevating them from the valence band to the conduction band and generating electron–hole pairs within the material. Capitalizing on the internal electric field within the semiconductor, the newly formed electron–hole pairs undergo separation, with electrons migrating toward the n-type (negative) side and holes toward the p-type (positive) side. This separation initiates the flow of electrical current—a movement of electrons and holes—ultimately harnessed as electricity. The conductive metal contacts on the solar cell's surface collect this electrical current, rendering it available for various applications (Song et al., 2023 ).

Solar cell efficiency evolution: a historical timeline

The historical progress of solar cell efficiency, as depicted in Fig.  2 , provides a comprehensive overview of the dynamic evolution of various solar cell technologies. This timeline graph spans from the early years of solar cell development in the 1950s to the present, highlighting key milestones and breakthroughs. Early years (1950s–1970s), the initial decades marked the foundational phase of solar cell technologies, predominantly centered around silicon-based cells. During this period, efficiencies were relatively modest, and research efforts were primarily directed at gaining a deeper understanding of semiconductor materials (Sun et al., 2023 ). Film Technologies (1980s–1990s), the timeline indicates a significant shift with the emergence of thin-film technologies, such as amorphous silicon and cadmium telluride (CdTe). These innovations not only introduced diversity to the solar market but also led to improvements in efficiency and manufacturing processes (Utkir, 2023 ). Advancements in the 2000s and 2010s showcased the rise of multi-junction and tandem cell technologies. These sophisticated designs allowed solar cells to capture a broader spectrum of sunlight, pushing the boundaries of efficiency further. The timeline (2010s–Present) reflects a recent surge in perovskite solar cells and other emerging technologies during the 2010s and the present. This surge signifies the ongoing quest for novel materials and techniques aimed at boosting efficiency and overcoming limitations associated with traditional solar cells (Adeyinka et al., 2023 ). The rightmost part of the (Present) provides a snapshot of the current state of solar cell efficiency. It serves as a visual representation of the coexistence of diverse technologies in the solar energy landscape, each contributing to the overall progress in harnessing solar power (Elumalai et al., 2016 ; Hughes et al., 2023 ). Key technological developments and shifts in solar cell types are represented in Fig.  2 , showcasing the evolution of efficiencies over the years (Elumalai et al., 2016 ).

figure 2

Solar cell efficiency evolution timeline (Elumalai et al., 2016 )

Different types of solar cells and their applications

Solar cells come in various types, each with its unique properties, advantages, and applications. The choice of solar cell type depends on factors such as efficiency, cost, and specific use cases. Table 1 outlines different types of solar cells and their primary applications. This discussion sets the stage for exploring the thermal effects on these different solar cell types.

Various types of solar cells are employed in diverse applications, each with its unique characteristics. Monocrystalline Silicon solar cells, crafted from single-crystal silicon wafers, boast high efficiency but come with a higher production cost, making them commonly utilized in residential and commercial installations (Ngwashi & Tsafack, 2023 ). Polycrystalline Silicon cells, constructed from multiple silicon crystals, offer a cost-effective alternative with slightly lower efficiency compared to monocrystalline cells and find applications across various sectors, including residential and industrial settings (Ali et al., 2023 ; Bondoc & Eduardo., 2023 ). Within the category of Thin-Film Solar Cells, amorphous Silicon (a-Si) solar cells are characterized by thinness and lightness, making them suitable for flexible and portable applications, such as solar panels for backpacks and small electronic devices (Adeyinka et al., 2023 ; Gao et al., 2023 ). Cadmium Telluride (CdTe) solar cells, known for their low manufacturing costs and competitive efficiency, are prevalent in large-scale utility solar farms (Dallaev et al., 2023 ; Limmanee et al., 2023 ). Copper Indium Gallium Selenide (CIGS) cells strike a balance between efficiency and cost and find applications in various settings, including building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) (Maalouf et al., 2023 ). Multi-Junction Solar Cells, reserved for specialized applications where high efficiency is paramount, comprise multiple layers of distinct semiconductor materials. Each layer is designed to capture a specific portion of the solar spectrum, and these cells are prevalent in space applications, concentrator photovoltaics (CPV), and high-efficiency terrestrial installations (Andres et al., 2023 ; Gibert-Roca et al., 2023 ). Organic Solar Cells, utilizing organic materials as the active layer, are known for their lightweight and flexibility. With the potential for low-cost production, they are primarily employed in portable and niche applications (Sun et al., 2023 ; Weitz et al., 2023 ).

Factors affecting solar cell efficiency

Table 2 highlights key factors influencing solar cell efficiency. Temperature has a negative impact, while higher solar irradiance and optimal angles increase efficiency. Dust, dirt, and shading can hinder efficiency by reducing the amount of sunlight reaching the solar cells.

The efficiency of solar cells, a critical factor in converting sunlight into electricity, is influenced by various factors. Material properties, particularly the bandgap energy of the semiconductor material, play a crucial role in determining the solar spectrum portion that can be absorbed (Kumar et al., 2023 ). Semiconductors with smaller bandgaps can capture a broader range of photons, including those with lower energy, but this may result in lower efficiency due to thermal losses. Additionally, higher carrier mobility within the material enhances charge separation and collection efficiency (Li et al., 2023 ). The relationship between bandgap energy and efficiency is intricate and depends on the specific semiconductor materials used. In solar cells, bandgap energy refers to the difference between the valence band and the conduction band, defining the range of photons the material can absorb. Materials with smaller bandgaps have a lower energy threshold for absorbing photons, allowing them to capture a broader spectrum, including lower-energy photons like infrared light. However, there are trade-offs associated with this characteristic. For instance, Amorphous Silicon (a-Si) serves as an example of a material with a smaller bandgap, around 1.7 eV. While a-Si can capture a broad range of photons, its efficiency in converting sunlight into electricity tends to be lower. This is attributed in part to higher thermalization losses, where excess energy, especially from photons with energy less than the bandgap, is lost as heat. In contrast, Monocrystalline Silicon (c-Si) exemplifies a material with a larger bandgap, approximately 1.1 eV. Although c-Si absorbs a narrower range of photons compared to a-Si, it tends to have higher conversion efficiency for the photons it does capture (Kumar et al., 2023 ; Li et al., 2023 ). In summary, the selection of bandgap in solar cell materials involves a trade-off between capturing a broad range of photons and achieving high conversion efficiency. While materials with smaller bandgaps can capture a broader spectrum, they may face challenges related to higher thermal losses, resulting in lower overall efficiency. On the other hand, materials with larger bandgaps may have a narrower absorption range but can achieve higher efficiency for the absorbed photons. The specific values and characteristics can vary among different semiconductor materials.

Temperature is a significant factor impacting solar cell efficiency, as elevated temperatures can lead to reduced performance, attributed to increased electron–hole recombination and resistance—a key thermal effect explored in this review (Wright et al., 2023 ; Failed, 2023a ). The incident angle of sunlight and its intensity also contribute to efficiency variations. Solar tracking systems optimize incident angles, while sunlight intensity, varying with location and time of day, affects available energy for conversion (Almenabawy et al., 2023 ). Surface reflection and absorption are managed through anti-reflective coatings applied to solar cell surfaces, minimizing reflection and maximizing photon absorption. Manufacturing and design factors are critical, with defects and contaminations during manufacturing potentially hindering performance. Quality control processes are essential in addressing these issues. Additionally, solar cell design, encompassing layer arrangements, significantly impacts efficiency, with ongoing innovations continually enhancing performance (Carlson, 2023 ).

Quantitative insights into solar cell efficiency

Solar cell efficiency, a pivotal metric in evaluating photovoltaic technologies, exhibits a diverse range across different materials and designs. Crystalline silicon, a prevalent choice, showcases variations in efficiency. Monocrystalline silicon, known for its stability, typically achieves efficiency levels ranging from 15 to 22%. On the other hand, polycrystalline silicon, offering a cost-effective alternative, falls within the efficiency range of 13% to 18%. Thin-film technologies contribute flexibility and cost advantages. Amorphous silicon (a-Si), a notable player, demonstrates efficiencies ranging from 6 to 12%. Another contender, cadmium telluride (CdTe), gains attention for cost-effectiveness, with reported efficiencies spanning 9% to 22%. Considered a promising player in the field, perovskite solar cells exhibit reported efficiencies surpassing 25%. Research efforts are actively focused on enhancing stability. In the realm of concentrated photovoltaics, multijunction solar cells achieve efficiencies exceeding 40%. These cells leverage multiple semiconductor layers to capture a broad spectrum of sunlight. Quantum dot solar cells, in the research phase, aim for higher efficiencies but lack standardized values at present (Kim et al., 2020 ; Shanmugam, 2020 ). Efficiency values aren't static; they vary based on geographical locations and environmental conditions. Ongoing technological advancements continue to push the boundaries, with efficiency values subject to updates. This exploration of solar cell efficiency provides a nuanced understanding, considering diverse materials, technologies, and the dynamic nature of research and development in the solar energy domain (Zambrano et al., 2021 ). The findings depicted in Fig.  3 (Saha et al., 2015 ) highlight a notable trend in the realm of photovoltaic devices, emphasizing that the efficiencies of solar cells employing new materials are currently not on par with traditional silicon solar cells. However, the data also underscore an optimistic perspective, as researchers worldwide remain hopeful. This optimism is rooted in the rapid advancements observed in the key parameters of higher-generation solar cells. Notably, the ongoing progress in these advanced solar cell technologies, coupled with the relatively low production costs of the materials used, fuels the anticipation for future breakthroughs that could potentially close the efficiency gap between traditional silicon solar cells and their innovative counterparts. This figure serves as a visual representation of the current landscape, encouraging further exploration and development in the pursuit of enhanced solar cell efficiency.

figure 3

Efficiency landscape: a comparative overview of solar cell generations and active materials (Saha et al., 2015 )

Thermal effects on solar cells

Solar cells are remarkable devices that harness the power of sunlight to generate electricity. However, they are not immune to the influence of temperature. In this section, we delve into the intricate relationship between thermal effects and solar cell performance. We explore the definition of thermal effects, their profound impact on solar cell efficiency, voltage, and current output, delve into the mechanisms behind thermal losses, and introduce relevant theoretical models and equations that underpin our understanding of this complex interaction (Al-Jumaili et al., 2019 ). Thermal effects in the context of solar cells refer to the changes in their electrical and optical properties due to variations in temperature. As solar cells operate, they invariably generate heat. This heat can originate from multiple sources, including the absorbed sunlight, resistive losses in the cell's electrical contacts, and even environmental factors. The temperature of a solar cell can fluctuate widely based on its location, time of day, and exposure to sunlight (Dwivedi et al., 2020 ). The influence of temperature on solar cell performance is multifaceted and can have both positive and negative effects. Understanding these effects is crucial for optimizing the efficiency and longevity of photovoltaic systems.

Impact of temperature on solar cell efficiency, voltage, and current output

Temperature exerts a noteworthy influence on solar cell efficiency, generally causing a decline as temperatures rise. This decline is chiefly attributed to two primary factors. Firstly, the open-circuit voltage (Voc) of a solar cell typically decreases with increasing temperature. Voc signifies the maximum voltage the cell can generate without a connected load. The reduction in Voc is linked to the rise in the intrinsic carrier concentration of the semiconductor material, leading to increased electron–hole recombination and a subsequent decrease in voltage output (Salimi et al., 2023 ; Shahariar et al., 2020 ). Secondly, the fill factor (FF), indicating a solar cell's effectiveness in converting sunlight into electricity, is also impacted by temperature. Higher temperatures tend to diminish FF due to increased resistive losses within the cell, resulting in an overall efficiency decrease (Elbar et al., 2019 ; Lakhdar & Hima, 2020 ). Illustrated in Fig.  4 is the correlation between solar cell efficiency and temperature. As temperature rises, efficiency experiences a decline attributed to heightened electron–hole recombination rates and alterations in the bandgap properties of materials. This awareness of temperature-dependent behavior is pivotal for optimizing solar cell performance and implementing effective cooling strategies (Ouédraogo et al., 2021 ).

figure 4

Solar cell efficiency vs. temperature ( a , Solar Cell; b , Individual efficiencies vs temperature; c , Voltage vs junction dynamic velocity for different temperatures; d , photocurrent vs temperature; e , Open circuit voltage vs temperature for different base doping levels; and f , Open circuit voltage vs temperature for different base doping levels) (Ouédraogo et al., 2021 )

Temperature plays a crucial role in shaping the electrical characteristics of solar cells, impacting both voltage and current output. Regarding voltage, the open-circuit voltage (Voc) diminishes with rising temperatures, influencing the maximum power point voltage (Vmpp). Vmpp, representing the voltage at which the solar cell achieves its peak power output, undergoes a decrease due to a shift in the voltage-temperature coefficient caused by temperature increases (An et al., 2019 ). In terms of current output, solar cells exhibit variations with changes in temperature. Elevated temperatures generally result in an increase in the short-circuit current (Isc), signifying the maximum current output under short-circuit conditions. This rise is attributed to heightened carrier concentrations and improved mobility in the semiconductor material at higher temperatures (Zhao et al., 2020a ).

Mechanisms behind thermal losses in solar cells

Understanding the impact of temperature on solar cell performance requires delving into the underlying mechanisms governing thermal losses. Several key mechanisms contribute to the reduction in efficiency and voltage. Auger Recombination becomes more significant at higher temperatures. This process involves the interaction of three charge carriers—two electrons and one hole—resulting in the non-radiative recombination of carriers. The increased likelihood of carriers participating in the Auger process at elevated temperatures leads to a decrease in the overall efficiency of the solar cell (Adeeb et al., 2019 ; Fathi & Parian, 2021 ). Shockley–Read–Hall (SRH) Recombination is another crucial mechanism that intensifies at higher temperatures. It occurs when charge carriers are trapped at defect states within the semiconductor material, leading to non-radiative recombination. With increased thermal energy, more carriers can overcome trap energy barriers, increasing the likelihood of recombination through the SRH process and reducing the solar cell's efficiency (Gupta et al., 2022 ). Increased Carrier Mobility at elevated temperatures can enhance current output but exacerbate recombination losses, especially near the electrical contacts. Carrier mobility refers to how efficiently charge carriers move through the semiconductor material. The increased thermal energy enables carriers to move more freely, leading to enhanced electrical conductivity. However, this increased mobility can raise the likelihood of recombination events, particularly near the contacts, resulting in reduced overall efficiency (Jošt et al., 2020 ). Dark current, representing the current generated within a solar cell in the absence of light, tends to increase with temperature. This rise is primarily due to thermally generated carriers. At higher temperatures, thermal energy excites electrons, creating additional charge carriers that contribute to dark current. While more prominent in the absence of light, dark current also influences the electrical characteristics of the solar cell under illuminated conditions, potentially reducing overall efficiency (Markvart, 2022 ).

These mechanisms collectively contribute to the impact of temperature on solar cell performance, highlighting the complex interplay between thermal effects and the efficiency, voltage, and current output of photovoltaic systems. It is imperative to consider these mechanisms when designing solar cells and implementing strategies to mitigate the adverse effects of temperature, as understanding these underlying processes is essential for optimizing solar cell performance. Cutting-edge research has elucidated the intricate mechanisms behind thermal losses in solar cells. At elevated temperatures, Auger recombination, a process involving the interaction of three charge carriers, has been identified as a significant contributor to non-radiative recombination, impacting the lifetime of charge carriers and overall efficiency (Subramani et al., 2021 ). Shockley–Read–Hall (SRH) recombination mechanisms, particularly prevalent at higher temperatures, involve charge carriers trapped at defect states within the semiconductor material, leading to non-radiative recombination (Lee et al., 2020 ). The exploration of increased carrier mobility at higher temperatures has uncovered a dual impact, enhancing current output while exacerbating recombination losses, especially near the cell contacts. Furthermore, research has delved into the phenomenon of higher dark current at elevated temperatures, mainly attributed to the thermally generated carriers, posing challenges to maintaining overall cell efficiency (Shu et al., 2022 ). Figure  5 illustrates the key mechanisms contributing to thermal losses in solar cells. Auger recombination, Shockley–Read–Hall (SRH) recombination, increased carrier mobility, and higher dark current are explored, providing a visual representation of the complexities involved (Shang & Li, 2017 ). Figure  5 visually encapsulates the intricate mechanisms leading to thermal losses in solar cells. Auger recombination, SRH recombination, increased carrier mobility, and higher dark current are fundamental processes explained in the preceding sections. This visual aid enhances comprehension, serving as a quick reference for readers exploring the nuanced interactions within solar cell materials.

figure 5

Mechanisms behind thermal losses in solar cells (Shang & Li, 2017 )

Relevant theoretical models and equations

Understanding the impact of temperature on solar cell performance relies on theoretical models and equations that describe these complex interactions. The Shockley equation describes the current–voltage (I–V) characteristics of a solar cell. It combines the effects of temperature, voltage, and other factors to predict the cell's electrical behavior. The equation is given as (Díaz, 2022 ):

where: \(I\) is the total current through the cell, \({I}_{ph}\) is the photocurrent (current generated by absorbed light), \({I}_{0}\) is the dark current (current in the absence of light), \(q\) is the elementary charge, \(V\) is the voltage across the cell, \(n\) is the ideality factor, \(k\) is Boltzmann's constant and \(T\) is the absolute temperature.

The Shockley–Queisser limit is a theoretical model that defines the maximum achievable efficiency of a single-junction solar cell as a function of the semiconductor bandgap and temperature. It provides insights into the fundamental efficiency limits of solar cells and how temperature affects these limits (Markvart, 2022 ). These equations describe the dependence of carrier concentrations (electrons and holes) on temperature, which is crucial for understanding the variation in open-circuit voltage and short-circuit current with temperature (Das et al., 2022 ). In conclusion, thermal effects on solar cells are a complex yet critical aspect of photovoltaic technology. Understanding the impact of temperature on solar cell efficiency, voltage, and current output is essential for optimizing the performance of photovoltaic systems in diverse environmental conditions. By comprehending the mechanisms behind thermal losses and utilizing theoretical models and equations, researchers and engineers can work towards enhancing the efficiency and reliability of solar cell technology, bringing us closer to the goal of sustainable and efficient solar energy generation.

Advancements in experimental techniques

Recent research has witnessed remarkable progress in refining experimental techniques for thermal assessment of solar cells. Advanced thermal imaging technologies now provide not only high spatial resolution but also real-time monitoring capabilities (Table  3 ). This empowers researchers to capture dynamic temperature changes during operation with unprecedented detail (Alhmoud, 2023 ). Calorimetry techniques have evolved, enabling accurate measurements of heat generation and facilitating a deeper understanding of heat dissipation mechanisms within solar cell materials (Hellin & Loreto., 2023 ). Temperature-dependent characterization methods, especially those integrating with existing testing setups, now offer more comprehensive insights into the electrical response of solar cells under varying thermal conditions (Rahmani et al., 2021 ). The latest advancements in experimental techniques are poised to revolutionize the understanding of thermal effects on solar cells. These innovations bring about higher precision, offering detailed insights that were previously challenging to attain. Thermal imaging's real-time monitoring and high spatial resolution provide a dynamic view of temperature changes during operation, laying the foundation for targeted interventions. Calorimetry, with its accurate heat measurement capabilities, is crucial for unraveling the intricate mechanisms of heat dissipation within solar cell materials. The evolution toward steady-state and transient thermal analysis enhances our understanding of the dynamic thermal behavior of solar cells. Temperature-dependent characterization, integrating seamlessly into existing testing setups, offers a practical approach to assess the electrical response under various thermal conditions. Looking ahead, these advancements set the stage for more sophisticated experimentation. Further integration with machine learning algorithms and simulations promises predictive capabilities, enabling researchers to anticipate and address thermal challenges effectively. Additionally, cost reduction initiatives will democratize access to these technologies, fostering a collaborative environment for advancing solar cell research.

Future outlook and implications for the solar energy industry

Looking ahead, the implications of these recent findings are profound for the solar energy industry. The advancements in experimental techniques offer more accurate and detailed thermal assessments, crucial for optimizing solar cell performance in real-world environmental conditions. The mechanistic insights into thermal losses provide a foundation for developing targeted strategies to mitigate efficiency reductions, thereby enhancing the reliability and longevity of solar technologies. The integration of these latest research findings into solar cell design and manufacturing processes holds the potential to unlock new frontiers in efficiency improvement. Tailoring solar cells to better withstand and adapt to temperature variations, guided by a deeper understanding of thermal effects, will contribute significantly to the industry's quest for sustainable and efficient solar energy generation. In conclusion, the latest research in thermal effects on solar cells marks a paradigm shift, emphasizing precision in assessment techniques and uncovering intricate mechanisms (Li et al., 2021 ). As we look to the future, these findings not only deepen our understanding but also chart a course toward more resilient and efficient solar technologies, playing a pivotal role in the global transition toward sustainable energy sources. The future implications of recent research findings are far-reaching for the solar energy industry. The precision afforded by advancements in experimental techniques holds the potential for more reliable solar cell optimization. Broader accessibility ensures that these benefits are not confined to a select few but are disseminated across the solar cell research community, fostering collaboration and shared knowledge (Table  4 ). Mechanistic insights into thermal losses provide a roadmap for targeted interventions to mitigate efficiency reductions. This knowledge serves as a foundation for developing adaptive solar cell designs capable of withstanding and adapting to temperature variations. The integration of these findings into solar cell manufacturing processes holds the key to sustained efficiency and longevity, aligning with the industry's pursuit of more robust and reliable solar technologies.

Heat effects and heat transfer in solar systems

In any solar energy system, the conversion of sunlight into electricity is crucial, but it isn't perfectly efficient and can lead to heat generation. This section explores heat effects, transfer mechanisms, and losses associated with components like charge controllers, inverters, and wiring (Wei et al., 2021 ). Charge controllers regulate energy flow from solar panels to batteries, generating heat due to electrical resistance. Inverters convert DC to AC, introducing heat in semiconductors. Wiring and conductors experience resistive losses, producing heat (Din et al., 2023 ; Lipiński et al., 2021 ; Ma et al., 2021 ). Effective heat management is vital to prevent overheating. Conduction transfers heat through direct contact, using metal heat sinks to dissipate it. Convection involves fluid movement, with systems employing fans or liquid cooling for heat dissipation. Radiation uses electromagnetic waves, and solar components may incorporate radiative cooling techniques like heat-reflective coatings (Aghaei et al., 2020 ; Aslam et al., 2022 ; Nkounga et al., 2021 ). Heat can lead to energy losses and reduced efficiency. Electrical losses occur due to resistance in components like wires, cables, and connectors. Inverters, especially older models, may experience significant heat-related losses. High operating temperatures can reduce battery efficiency and lifespan (Hernández-Callejo et al., 2019 ; Sarath et al., 2023 ; Sharma et al., 2019 ). Efforts to mitigate heat effects include designing components to minimize heat generation and optimize dissipation. Active cooling systems, such as fans and liquid cooling, can be integrated into solar components. Regular monitoring and maintenance practices, along with choosing high-efficiency inverters and using appropriate wiring, contribute to preventing overheating and improving system efficiency (Fang et al., 2023 ; Zhou et al., 2015 ). In conclusion, heat generation, heat transfer, and losses resulting from the operation of solar system components are essential considerations for optimizing the efficiency and reliability of solar energy systems. Effective heat management techniques, along with advances in component design and technology, contribute to the overall performance and sustainability of solar power installations. Properly addressing heat effects ensures that solar systems continue to harness the sun's energy efficiently and effectively for clean and renewable electricity generation.

Table 5 offers an overview of heat effects, transfer mechanisms, losses, and mitigation strategies in various solar system components: Charge Controllers generate heat through electrical resistance, with conduction and convection facilitating heat transfer. Energy losses occur, impacting system efficiency. Mitigation involves using efficient semiconductors, cooling systems, and regular monitoring. Inverters produce heat during the DC to AC conversion, transferred through conduction and convection. Energy losses result from heat-related inefficiencies. Selecting high-efficiency inverters, implementing cooling systems, and efficient component design address heat effects. Wiring and Conductors experience heat generation due to electrical resistance, with conduction and convection causing energy losses. Proper sizing, rating of wiring, and efficient component design minimize these losses. Batteries in off-grid systems generate heat during charge/discharge cycles, with conduction and convection as heat transfer mechanisms. Issues include reduced efficiency and shortened lifespan, addressed through temperature monitoring and battery cooling systems. Solar Panels absorb sunlight, leading to heat generation transferred through conduction, convection, and radiation. Reduced panel efficiency is a concern, addressed through solar panel design, radiative cooling techniques, and regular cleaning and maintenance. Understanding these heat effects, transfer mechanisms, and losses is crucial for optimizing solar energy systems. Mitigation strategies, ranging from component design to cooling systems and monitoring, are employed to manage heat effectively and ensure the sustained performance of solar systems.

Figure  6 visually depicts heat transfer mechanisms in solar systems, illustrating how heat is generated and managed within different components. Heat generation occurs in charge controllers (electrical resistance), inverters (DC to AC conversion), wiring and conductors (electrical resistance), batteries (charge/discharge cycles), and solar panels (sunlight absorption). Conduction occurs through direct contact, convection through fluid movement, and radiation as electromagnetic waves emission. The figure shows heat transfer between components and the environment. For instance, charge controllers dissipate heat through conduction and convection, while inverters may use cooling systems. Solar panels utilize radiation for heat dissipation. Mitigation strategies, highlighted in the figure, include efficient component design, cooling systems (fans or liquid cooling), and regular temperature monitoring. Figure  6 a underscores the importance of managing heat effects for system efficiency and reliability. Figures  6 b and 3 c demonstrate heat transfer from the backside of solar panels to the hot side of TEC, using air-cooling and water-cooling mechanisms, providing a reference for addressing thermal challenges in solar energy installations (Malik et al., 2021 ).

figure 6

a Heat transfer mechanisms in solar systems. b Heat transfer mechanism from back side of solar panels to thermo-electric cells through air-cooling mechanism. c Heat transfer mechanism from back side of solar panels to thermo-electric cells through water-cooling mechanism. (Malik et al., 2021 )

Experimental methods for thermal analysis

The study of thermal effects on solar cells is a critical aspect of optimizing their performance and efficiency. Experimental techniques play a vital role in understanding how temperature variations influence solar cell behavior. In this section, we explore various experimental methods used to study thermal effects on solar cells, including thermal imaging, calorimetry, and temperature-dependent characterization. We will also highlight the advantages and limitations of each method, providing insights into their applicability and contributions to the field.

Various experimental techniques

Understanding various experimental techniques is vital for assessing thermal effects on solar cells. Thermal imaging, characterized by high spatial resolution, visually represents temperature variations, aiding in pinpointing areas of concern (Table  6 ). Figure  7 a illustrates temperature distribution across a solar cell surface, providing insights into localized thermal effects. The color gradient depicts varying temperatures, with a minimum temperature difference of 0.68 K between the center and corresponding edge (Fig.  7 a) and a maximum difference of 1.2 K between the center and corner (Fig.  7 b) (Zhou et al., 2015 ).

figure 7

a Temperature distribution across a solar cell, b Direction parallel to sideline and c diagonal direction (Zhou et al., 2015 )

Calorimetry, a crucial technique, provides accurate measurements of heat generated by solar cells, enabling a precise assessment of thermal effects (Table  7 ).

Temperature-dependent characterization techniques, explored in Table  8 , play a significant role in understanding and assessing thermal effects on solar cells.

Advantages and limitations of each method

Table 9 discussing the advantages and limitations of thermal imaging aids researchers in making informed decisions when selecting this technique for assessing thermal effects on solar cells.

Understanding the advantages and limitations (Table  10 ) of calorimetry assists researchers in evaluating its suitability for assessing thermal effects on solar cells.

Analyzing the advantages and limitations (Table  11 ) of temperature-dependent characterization helps researchers in selecting suitable methods for assessing thermal effects on solar cells.

In conclusion, understanding the thermal effects on solar cells is crucial for optimizing their performance in diverse environmental conditions. Experimental techniques such as thermal imaging, calorimetry, and temperature-dependent characterization offer valuable insights into how temperature variations influence solar cell behavior. Each method has its advantages and limitations, and researchers must choose the most suitable approach based on their specific research goals and available resources. Ultimately, these experimental techniques contribute to the ongoing efforts to enhance the efficiency and reliability of solar cell technology, further advancing the utilization of solar energy as a sustainable power source.

Factors influencing thermal effects

The thermal performance of solar cells is intricately linked to numerous external and internal factors. A comprehensive understanding of these elements is imperative for the optimization of efficiency and reliability in solar energy systems. This section delves into the key elements influencing thermal effects on solar cells.

External factors affecting solar cell temperature

External factors, such as climate, geographic location, and installation parameters, significantly impact the temperature of solar cells. In Table  12 , we explore the impact of climate and weather conditions on solar cell temperature, considering factors such as temperature extremes, seasonal variations, and cloud cover. In regions characterized by extreme temperatures, such as hot deserts or cold climates, solar cells may undergo variations in efficiency (Osma-Pinto & Ordóñez-Plata, 2019 ). The dynamic response of solar cells to temperature extremes is a critical consideration for system designers. Higher temperatures, typical in hot climates, can lead to increased thermal losses, potentially impacting the overall efficiency of the solar cell. Conversely, in extremely cold conditions, solar cells may experience reduced efficiency due to the constraints imposed by low temperatures. Seasonal changes play a pivotal role in influencing solar cell temperature. During winter in cold climates, solar cells may encounter reduced efficiency due to the colder temperatures (Salamah et al., 2022 ). Cold weather can affect the performance of solar cells by altering the behavior of charge carriers and increasing resistive losses. On the other hand, in hot climates during the summer, solar cells may face thermal losses. The trade-off between seasonal variations and optimal performance highlights the importance of considering regional climatic conditions in solar energy system planning. Cloudy or overcast conditions introduce another layer of complexity to solar cell temperature regulation. Reduced sunlight during cloudy conditions impacts both the temperature of the solar cell and its electricity generation efficiency (Weaver et al., 2022 ). The limited sunlight reaching the solar cell not only affects its temperature but also reduces the amount of energy available for conversion. Cloud cover, therefore, represents a significant external factor influencing solar cell temperature and, consequently, the overall performance of the solar energy system. Table 12 underscores the dynamic and multifaceted nature of solar cell temperature regulation in response to climate and weather conditions. The identified factors emphasize the trade-offs between extreme conditions and optimal performance. System designers and planners must carefully weigh these considerations to enhance the efficiency and reliability of solar energy systems, particularly in diverse environmental contexts. As the solar industry continues to expand into various geographic regions, a nuanced understanding of these climate-related influences becomes increasingly crucial for the successful implementation of solar energy technologies.

Table 13 delves into the influence of geographic location, specifically considering latitude and altitude, on solar cell temperature. Here, we examine the key considerations and discuss the implications for system planning. The proximity to the equator, expressed in terms of latitude, is a crucial determinant of solar cell temperature (Din et al., 2023 ). Closer proximity to the equator generally results in higher temperatures. Solar installations located near the equator receive more direct sunlight throughout the year, contributing to increased temperatures of solar cells. This temperature elevation is a vital aspect for system planners to consider, as it directly impacts the efficiency and overall performance of solar energy systems. The latitude factor highlights the need for tailored strategies and technologies in regions with higher temperatures to mitigate potential thermal losses. Altitude, or the elevation above sea level, is another geographic factor influencing solar cell temperature (Din et al., 2023 ). Higher altitudes tend to have lower average temperatures due to the cooler air at higher elevations. The impact of altitude on solar cell temperature is an essential consideration for installations in mountainous or elevated regions. While lower temperatures can be advantageous for solar cell efficiency, other factors, such as the potential for increased solar radiation exposure at higher altitudes, need to be weighed. System planners must balance the benefits and challenges associated with altitude to optimize the performance of solar energy systems. The discussion surrounding Table  13 emphasizes the significance of geographic location, specifically considering latitude and altitude, in influencing solar cell temperature. The observations underscore the importance of incorporating these geographical factors into system planning for solar energy installations. The latitude-altitude dynamics provide valuable insights for system designers, helping them tailor solar energy technologies and strategies to suit the specific climatic conditions of a given location. This nuanced approach is crucial for enhancing the efficiency, reliability, and overall success of solar energy systems in diverse geographic settings.

Table 14 provides insights into the impact of installation angle and orientation on solar cell temperature, emphasizing considerations related to tilt angles and panel orientations. Here, we delve into the key factors and discuss their implications for mitigating thermal effects. The tilt angle of solar panels plays a crucial role in determining solar cell temperature (Atsu et al., 2020 ). By adjusting the tilt angle based on the sun's position, solar cells can minimize their temperature, especially in hot climates. This adjustment optimizes the angle at which sunlight strikes the panels, reducing the absorption of excessive heat. The consideration of tilt angles is particularly relevant in regions with high temperatures, as it offers a practical and efficient means to regulate solar cell temperature. The importance of this factor lies in its ability to enhance overall energy yield by maintaining optimal operating conditions. The orientation of solar panels, whether facing north–south or east–west, significantly influences the amount of sunlight received and, consequently, solar cell temperature (Atsu et al., 2020 ). The direction in which panels are oriented determines their exposure to direct sunlight. System planners must strategically decide the orientation based on the solar path and prevailing climate conditions. Optimizing panel orientation is a key aspect of thermal management, ensuring that solar cells receive sunlight effectively without being subjected to excessive heating. The discussion of orientation underscores the importance of thoughtful planning in maximizing energy production while minimizing thermal impacts. Table 14 underscores the significance of optimizing tilt angles and panel orientations to mitigate thermal effects on solar cells. The considerations related to tilt angle adjustments and panel orientations provide practical strategies for system planners to regulate solar cell temperature. By strategically addressing these factors, it becomes possible to achieve a balance between energy efficiency and thermal management.

Internal factors within solar cell materials and designs

Internal factors related to solar cell materials, designs, encapsulation, electrical configuration, and tracking systems significantly influence thermal effects. Table 15 provides a comprehensive overview of the impact of solar cell material on thermal performance, focusing on factors such as material bandgap and thermal conductivity. The internal characteristics of solar cell materials play a crucial role in shaping their thermal behavior, and this discussion aims to shed light on the considerations presented in the table. The bandgap of solar cell materials significantly influences their ability to absorb photons, and this, in turn, affects their susceptibility to thermal losses (An et al., 2019 ). Materials with smaller bandgaps can absorb lower-energy photons, expanding their absorption spectrum but potentially making them more prone to thermal losses. The discussion around material bandgap underscores the delicate balance that must be struck between maximizing photon absorption and minimizing thermal effects. System designers and material scientists must carefully consider this trade-off to optimize the thermal performance of solar cells. This consideration becomes particularly important in environments with varying temperature conditions, where the material's response to thermal stress plays a critical role in overall efficiency. The thermal conductivity of solar cell materials is a key determinant of their ability to manage temperature variations effectively (An et al., 2019 ). Materials with higher thermal conductivity can efficiently dissipate heat, contributing to better thermal management within the solar cell. This characteristic becomes crucial in scenarios where solar cells are subjected to fluctuating environmental temperatures. The discussion on material thermal conductivity emphasizes the importance of selecting materials that strike a balance between their electrical properties and thermal behavior. Achieving a favorable compromise allows for optimal solar cell performance in diverse climatic conditions. Table 15 delves into the internal factors of solar cell materials and their impact on thermal performance. The discussion highlights the intricate trade-offs involved in choosing materials with specific bandgaps and thermal conductivities. Careful consideration of these factors is paramount for system designers and researchers seeking to enhance the efficiency and reliability of solar cells.

Figure  8 (Sze, 1981 ) provides a comprehensive view of ideal solar cell efficiency concerning the band gap energy, considering different spectral distributions and power densities. The plot illustrates the efficiency variations under the spectral distributions AM0, AM1.5 at 1 sun, and AM1.5 at 1000 suns. The data underscores the critical role of band gap energy in determining the optimal efficiency of solar cells under varying solar conditions. For instance, the chart reveals the influence of band gap energy on efficiency, showcasing how different band gap values respond to sunlight at different power densities. This insight is valuable for researchers and engineers aiming to design solar cells tailored to specific environmental conditions and power requirements. It highlights the trade-offs between band gap energy and efficiency, emphasizing the need for a nuanced approach in solar cell design to achieve optimal performance across diverse operational scenarios.

figure 8

Solar cell efficiency across different band gap energies under various spectral distributions and power densities (Sze, 1981 )

Table 16 provides a comprehensive overview of how various design elements influence thermal effects in solar cells. The internal factors within solar cell designs, such as anti-reflective coatings, back-side reflectors, cell thickness, and bypass diodes, play a crucial role in shaping the thermal performance of the solar cell. This discussion aims to provide insights into the considerations presented in the table. The incorporation of anti-reflective coatings in solar cell design serves as an effective strategy to reduce the absorption of sunlight, consequently lowering the cell temperature (Sze, 1981 ). By minimizing sunlight absorption, anti-reflective coatings contribute to temperature regulation and enhance the overall performance of the solar cell. This discussion underscores the positive impact of anti-reflective coatings in mitigating thermal effects, especially in environments where excessive heating may pose challenges to efficiency. Back-side reflectors, as outlined in Table  16 , redirect unabsorbed sunlight back into the solar cell, potentially increasing its temperature (Sze, 1981 ). This design element introduces a nuanced aspect to thermal effects, as the redirection of sunlight may lead to localized heating. System designers must carefully weigh the benefits and drawbacks of incorporating back-side reflectors, considering the specific environmental conditions in which the solar cells will operate. The discussion emphasizes the need for a comprehensive understanding of the thermal consequences associated with different design choices. The thickness of solar cells, as presented in Table  16 , influences their thermal mass, impacting the rate of temperature changes and differences across the cell (Gupta et al., 2019 ). Thicker cells exhibit higher thermal mass, resulting in slower temperature changes but potentially greater temperature variations within the cell. This consideration highlights the importance of balancing thermal mass with the desired rate of response to environmental temperature fluctuations. System designers must tailor cell thickness to the specific requirements of the intended operating conditions, aiming for optimal thermal performance. Bypass diodes, as discussed in Table  16 , serve as a mitigation strategy for hotspots and thermal effects by allowing current to bypass overheating or shaded cells (Gupta et al., 2019 ). The incorporation of bypass diodes contributes to the overall resilience of solar panels in diverse conditions, enhancing their performance and longevity. The discussion emphasizes the critical role of bypass diodes in managing thermal effects and maintaining the efficiency of solar cell arrays, especially in scenarios where cells may experience non-uniform sunlight exposure. Table 16 offers valuable insights into the influence of solar cell design on thermal effects. The discussion emphasizes the dual nature of certain design elements, such as back-side reflectors, and underscores the need for a nuanced approach in optimizing solar cell performance. Design choices play a pivotal role in either mitigating or exacerbating thermal effects, and a thoughtful consideration of these factors is essential for advancing the efficiency and reliability of solar cells in varying environmental conditions.

Table 17 provides a comprehensive overview of the factors related to encapsulation and packaging that influence the thermal performance of solar cells. This discussion aims to delve into the considerations outlined in the table, shedding light on the crucial role of encapsulation and packaging in managing solar cell temperature. As highlighted in Table  17 , the choice of encapsulation materials significantly impacts the ability of solar cells to dissipate heat effectively. The materials must possess good thermal conductivity to facilitate the efficient transfer of heat away from the solar cells (Yue et al., 2021 ). Effective encapsulation ensures that heat generated during the operation of solar cells is adequately conducted away, preventing thermal buildup that could compromise the cells' efficiency and reliability. The discussion underscores the importance of selecting materials with superior thermal conductivity in the encapsulation process to optimize thermal performance. Proper ventilation and cooling systems, as indicated in Table  17 , play a critical role in maintaining optimal temperatures for solar cells (Yue et al., 2021 ). In solar installations, where temperature regulation is essential for sustained performance, effective ventilation and cooling become paramount. These systems help dissipate excess heat, preventing the solar cells from reaching temperatures that could adversely affect their efficiency and longevity. The discussion emphasizes the need for well-designed ventilation and cooling mechanisms as integral components of solar cell systems, contributing to the overall thermal management strategy. Table 17 underscores the significance of encapsulation and packaging in influencing the thermal performance of solar cells. The discussion emphasizes the dual role of encapsulation materials in providing structural support and facilitating efficient heat dissipation. The choice of materials and the implementation of ventilation and cooling systems are pivotal considerations in optimizing solar cell temperature. A thoughtful approach to encapsulation and packaging design contributes to the overarching goal of enhancing the efficiency and reliability of solar cells, particularly in the face of dynamic environmental conditions.

Table 18 provides a succinct overview of the influence of electrical and wiring configurations on the temperature of solar cells. This discussion delves into the considerations outlined in the table, emphasizing how the arrangement of solar cell connections and the efficiency of inverters impact the thermal performance of the entire solar energy system. The choice between series and parallel wiring, as highlighted in Table  18 , is a critical consideration in solar cell installations. Series wiring can affect how individual cells heat up and cool down during operation. Specifically, series wiring may lead to higher operating temperatures in individual cells (Pásztory, 2021 ). This is a result of the cumulative effect where the current passing through each connected cell contributes to its temperature. The discussion underscores the importance of carefully selecting the wiring configuration based on the specific requirements of the solar energy system and the desired balance between efficiency and thermal considerations. Inverter efficiency, as indicated in Table  18 , is a crucial factor influencing thermal effects on solar cells. Inverters play a central role in converting the direct current (DC) generated by solar cells into alternating current (AC) for use in homes or the grid. The efficiency of this conversion process is paramount, as less efficient inverters may produce more waste heat (Pásztory, 2021 ). The discussion highlights the need for selecting high-efficiency inverters to minimize the impact of waste heat on the overall temperature of the solar energy system. This becomes particularly relevant.

Table 19 succinctly presents the considerations associated with different tracking systems and their impact on solar cell temperature. This discussion provides insights into the role of tracking systems in influencing the thermal performance of solar cells, with a focus on the distinctions between single-axis and dual-axis tracking. The central point in Table  19 revolves around the choice between single-axis and dual-axis tracking systems. Single-axis tracking systems adjust the tilt of solar panels in one direction, typically east to west, to follow the sun's path across the sky. On the other hand, dual-axis tracking systems offer a more precise adjustment by altering both tilt and azimuth to track the sun more accurately (Sani et al., 2022 ). The discussion emphasizes that while tracking systems can enhance energy yield by optimizing sunlight exposure, they may also introduce additional thermal stress on solar cells, especially when in motion. The considerations outlined in Table  19 are crucial for system planners and operators. The decision between single-axis and dual-axis tracking involves a trade-off between increased energy generation and the potential introduction of additional thermal stress on solar cells. Single-axis tracking is generally less complex and may be more suitable for certain installations, whereas dual-axis tracking provides enhanced accuracy in following the sun's movement.

Mitigation strategies for thermal effects on solar cells

The adverse effects of temperature on solar cells are a well-known challenge in the field of photovoltaics. To maximize the efficiency and lifespan of solar energy systems, it's essential to implement effective mitigation strategies. In this section, we will explore various approaches to mitigate the negative impact of temperature on solar cells, including passive and active cooling techniques, as well as the use of advanced materials and designs to enhance thermal stability (Luo et al., 2020 ). Figure  9 provides a visual comparison of different cooling techniques for solar cells (Dwivedi et al., 2020 ). It shows passive cooling, which relies on natural processes, and active cooling, which involves mechanical systems. The figure highlights the advantages and limitations of each technique, helping engineers and researchers choose the most suitable cooling method for specific solar installations.

figure 9

a Comparison of cooling techniques, b Passive radiative sky cooling and c Model of a P.V. panel with heat sink (Dwivedi et al., 2020 )

Strategies to mitigate adverse effects of temperature

Mitigating the adverse effects of temperature on solar cells involves employing various strategies. Passive cooling techniques aim to dissipate heat from solar cells without the need for active mechanical systems. They rely on natural processes, including radiative cooling using materials with high emissivity, natural convection facilitated by well-designed solar panels, and shading or elevation to reduce direct ground exposure (Akin et al., 2020 ; Dwivedi et al., 2020 ; Kazem et al., 2020 ). On the other hand, active cooling techniques utilize mechanical systems to actively remove excess heat. Forced convection involves using fans or blowers to enhance heat dissipation, especially effective in regions where natural convection is insufficient. Liquid cooling systems circulate a heat-transfer fluid through channels on the back of solar panels, absorbing heat and cooling before recirculation. Additionally, phase-change materials (PCMs) can be integrated into solar panel designs to regulate temperature by absorbing excess heat during the day and releasing it at night. These strategies collectively contribute to optimizing the efficiency and reliability of solar energy systems (Liu et al., 2021 ; He et al., 2020 ; Ravishankar et al., 2020 ; Xu et al., 2021 ). Table 20 distinguishes between passive and active cooling techniques. Passive cooling relies on natural convection, radiation, and other phenomena to dissipate heat, while active cooling involves the use of fans, liquid cooling, or other mechanical methods to actively remove heat from solar cells.

Advanced materials and designs to enhance thermal stability

Enhancing the thermal stability of solar cells involves the integration of advanced materials, improved designs, smart technologies, nanomaterials, and advanced manufacturing techniques (Li et al., 2020 ). Utilizing thermally conductive substrates like aluminum or copper helps spread and dissipate heat effectively, reducing localized hotspots. Thermal barrier coatings on solar panels minimize heat absorption and transfer, with reflective properties to reduce thermal load. Enhanced encapsulation materials with high thermal conductivity efficiently dissipate heat from the solar cells (Dwivedi et al., 2020 ; Tawalbeh et al., 2021 ). Optimizing solar cell designs includes the use of bifacial solar cells capturing sunlight from both sides to reduce absorbed heat. Back-side reflectors redirect unabsorbed sunlight, minimizing heat absorption. Advanced designs may incorporate selective emitter structures improving electrical performance at high temperatures (Aydin et al., 2019 ; Gupta et al., 2019 ). Integrating smart and adaptive technologies enhances thermal management. Embedded temperature sensors monitor cell temperatures in real-time, adjusting cooling systems or shading devices as needed. Advanced tracking systems adjust panel orientation to optimize energy generation and reduce thermal stress (Hachicha et al., 2019 ). Nanomaterials contribute to thermal stability through thin nanocoatings controlling heat absorption and dissipation. Nanofluids, consisting of nanoparticles in a liquid, enhance the efficiency of liquid cooling systems (Chen & Park, 2020 ; Wang et al., 2020 ). Advanced manufacturing techniques further enhance thermal stability. Multi-junction solar cells with multiple semiconductor layers achieve higher efficiencies and are less susceptible to thermal losses. Thin-film solar cells, inherently less thermally sensitive, are suitable for a wider range of operating conditions (Ilse et al., 2019 ; Santhakumari & Sagar, 2019 ).

Case studies: influence of thermal effects on solar cell performance

To gain a deeper understanding of the impact of thermal effects on solar cell performance, it is instructive to examine real-world case studies across different geographic regions and climatic conditions. In this section, we present case studies that highlight the diverse challenges and solutions associated with thermal effects on solar cells, drawing upon relevant studies and data.

Case studies in various geographic regions and climatic conditions

Exploring case studies from diverse geographic regions reveals the varied impacts of climate on solar cell performance. In the scorching heat of Nevada, USA, where temperatures often exceed 100°F (37.8°C), solar cell efficiency faces challenges. The University of Nevada, Las Vegas, conducted a study highlighting the impact of high temperatures on photovoltaic systems. Actively cooled systems, incorporating fans and water cooling, outperformed passive systems during peak heat. However, passive systems with efficient natural convection still maintained acceptable performance (Devitt et al., 2020 ). In the Arctic conditions of Northern Norway, within the Arctic Circle, harsh winters with sub-zero temperatures affect solar cell efficiency. Researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology discovered that utilizing bifacial solar panels, capturing light from both sides, enhanced energy generation during the low-light winter months, mitigating the adverse effects of extreme cold (Berge et al., 2015 ). Moving to Malaysia, situated near the equator with high humidity and frequent rainfall, solar cell performance faces different challenges. While high temperatures are typical in tropical regions, humidity can lead to corrosion and electrical leakage. A study by Universiti Teknologi Malaysia emphasized the importance of using advanced encapsulation materials and regular maintenance to mitigate humidity-related issues, prolonging the lifespan of solar panels in humid climates (Wong et al., 2018 ).

Case studies: data and findings from relevant studies

Exploring relevant case studies sheds light on the diverse impacts of temperature on solar panel performance. In a study examining the impact of temperature on thin-film solar panels across various climates, researchers observed that while thin-film panels were less susceptible to thermal losses in extreme heat, their efficiency decreased compared to silicon panels in temperate regions. This emphasizes the need to carefully choose panel technology based on the specific climatic conditions of a region (Rahman et al., 2023 ). Saudi Arabia, known for its hot desert climate, presented unique challenges in a study by researchers from King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST). They found that extreme heat, coupled with dust accumulation on solar panels, significantly reduced solar cell efficiency. To address this, the researchers proposed an innovative self-cleaning solar panel system with a hydrophobic coating and integrated microscale channels. This approach demonstrated promising results in maintaining panel performance in harsh desert environments (Rubaiee et al., 2021 ). A comprehensive study conducted by researchers from the University of California, Merced, focused on temperature-dependent performance modeling of solar panels across diverse climates. The study emphasized the importance of accurate modeling considering environmental factors, material properties, and panel design. By incorporating real-world data from various regions and climates, researchers could optimize solar panel designs and develop effective cooling strategies tailored to specific environmental conditions (Al-Housani et al., 2019 ). Table 21 illustrates how solar cell efficiency can vary in different climate zones. Desert regions experience high temperatures that reduce efficiency, while temperate climates offer more favorable conditions. Arctic regions may face efficiency challenges due to extreme cold, and tropical climates may contend with high humidity affecting performance.

Future trends and research directions: addressing thermal challenges in solar cells

As the world increasingly turns to solar energy as a sustainable power source, the need to address thermal challenges in solar cells becomes more critical. Researchers and innovators are continually exploring emerging technologies and research areas to enhance the efficiency and reliability of photovoltaic systems. In this section, we will discuss the future trends and research directions aimed at tackling the thermal challenges faced by solar cells, highlighting potential breakthroughs and innovations.

Emerging technologies and research areas

Ongoing research in emerging technologies focuses on advancing materials and cooling techniques to enhance the thermal stability of solar cells and improve overall performance. One avenue of research involves developing advanced materials tailored to withstand thermal stresses. Innovations include the exploration of thermal barrier coatings with reflective properties to reduce heat absorption and enhance dissipation (Al-Fartoos et al., 2023 ). Nanotechnology offers opportunities to engineer nanocoatings and nanofluids, providing enhanced thermal regulation when applied to solar cells. Additionally, the study of thermoelectric materials is underway, aiming to capture waste heat from solar cells and convert it into additional electricity, thereby increasing overall energy yield (Song et al., 2023 ). In the realm of cooling technologies, researchers are exploring microfluidic cooling systems with tiny channels within solar panels to circulate cooling fluids effectively (Liu et al., 2018 ). Phase-Change Materials (PCMs) with tailored phase-change temperatures are being investigated for their ability to store and release heat at specific thresholds, contributing to precise thermal regulation. Hybrid cooling systems, combining active and passive cooling strategies, are also being explored to optimize thermal management 146]. The integration of smart and adaptive technologies is gaining momentum. Machine learning and AI algorithms are being employed to analyze real-time data from temperature sensors and weather forecasts, optimizing solar panel operations. Bifacial solar panels, capturing sunlight from both sides, are becoming more prevalent to enhance energy generation and alleviate thermal effects. Dynamic shading and tracking systems are under development to adapt to changing environmental conditions, mitigating excessive sunlight exposure and minimizing thermal stress on panels (Riedel-Lyngskær et al., 2020 ; Johansson et al., 2022 ).

Potential breakthroughs and innovations

Quantum dots and perovskite solar cells are emerging as potential transformative technologies in the solar industry, offering promising solutions to thermal challenges. Quantum dots, semiconductor nanocrystals with unique optical and electronic properties, are being investigated for their potential impact. Researchers are exploring quantum-dot-based solar cells that can capture a broader spectrum of sunlight. This has the dual advantage of reducing heat absorption by the cell and enhancing overall efficiency (Chen & Zhao, 2020 ). Perovskite solar cells are highly efficient and demonstrate superior thermal stability. Ongoing research is dedicated to improving the scalability and long-term stability of perovskite solar cells, making them more viable for widespread commercial applications. These breakthroughs hold the promise of further advancing the efficiency and reliability of solar energy systems (Lim et al., 2022 ). Table 22 outlines potential breakthroughs in solar cell technology. Quantum dots and perovskite cells have shown promise in increasing efficiency. Transparent solar panels offer aesthetic integration, while space-based solar power eliminates atmospheric issues. Tandem cells combine materials for both efficiency and thermal management improvements. These innovations represent exciting directions in solar energy research.

Transparent solar panels, designed for integration into windows and building materials, present opportunities to enhance aesthetics and reduce heat absorption. Researchers are exploring materials such as organic photovoltaics and transparent conductive oxides to create these panels, capturing sunlight without inducing significant heat buildup. Building integration of transparent solar panels seamlessly incorporates them into architectural designs, offering an alternative to traditional opaque panels that may contribute to thermal issues on building surfaces. Figure  10 visually illustrates the architectural applications, showcasing solar panels integrated into rooftops and façades, emphasizing their aesthetic and functional potential for sustainable building practices and energy generation (Pulli et al., 2020 ). Figure  10 showcases the integration of solar panels into building designs. It demonstrates various architectural applications, such as solar panels integrated into rooftops and façades (Vasiliev et al., 2019 ). This visual representation emphasizes the aesthetic and functional potential of solar panels, contributing to sustainable building practices and energy generation.

figure 10

Solar panel integration in buildings (Vasiliev et al., 2019 )

Space-based solar power (SBSP) is a visionary concept involving the collection of solar energy in space and transmitting it to Earth using microwave or laser beams. While in theoretical research, SBSP could potentially address terrestrial solar panel thermal challenges by operating in a consistent temperature environment free from atmospheric effects and benefiting from continuous sunlight (Baum et al., 2022 ; Saha et al., 2015 ). Perovskite-silicon tandem solar cells, combining perovskite and silicon technologies, hold the potential to significantly enhance solar cell efficiency while addressing thermal issues. Tandem cells leverage the strengths of both technologies, optimizing materials to minimize thermal losses and enhance overall thermal stability (Akhil et al., 2021 ). The solar industry's increasing focus on sustainability includes recycling and repurposing solar panels. Advanced recycling techniques aim to recover valuable materials from end-of-life solar panels, reducing environmental impact and lowering the demand for new materials. Sustainable manufacturing methods are also under exploration to minimize energy consumption and thermal waste during panel production (Daniela-Abigail et al., 2022 ). In conclusion, addressing thermal challenges in solar cells is pivotal for the future of solar energy. Emerging technologies, from quantum dots to transparent panels, space-based solar power, tandem cells, and recycling methods, offer promising solutions. These innovations have the potential to reshape solar energy production, unlocking higher efficiency, greater reliability, and a more sustainable future for solar energy systems. Ongoing research in these areas is key to advancing the solar industry towards a greener and more efficient future.

Conclusion: addressing thermal effects for enhanced solar cell efficiency

In this comprehensive review, we have delved into the complex world of thermal effects on solar cells, exploring their mechanisms, impact, and various strategies for mitigation. As the world increasingly turns to solar energy as a key component of the renewable energy landscape, understanding and addressing thermal challenges in solar cells are of paramount importance. In this concluding section, we summarize the key findings and insights from the review, emphasize the significance of mitigating thermal effects for improving solar cell efficiency, and provide practical recommendations for researchers, engineers, and policymakers.

Key findings and insights

In the course of this review, several noteworthy findings have surfaced. Thermal effects on solar cells emerge as a pervasive and intricate challenge, considering that solar panels contend with a broad spectrum of temperatures, significantly influencing their efficiency and durability. Elevated temperatures, a common factor, precipitate reduced solar cell efficiency by fostering electron–hole recombination, modifying the bandgap properties of materials, and introducing resistive losses. The exploration of various mitigation strategies has been integral. Passive and active cooling techniques, advanced materials, smart and adaptive technologies, and innovative designs have been examined to regulate temperature and enhance the overall thermal stability of solar panels. The advent of emerging technologies adds an exciting dimension. Quantum dots, perovskite solar cells, transparent panels, and space-based solar power showcase potential breakthroughs, promising to reshape the solar industry by effectively addressing thermal challenges and elevating efficiency. The growing emphasis on sustainability and recycling in solar panel manufacturing and end-of-life disposal is another key insight. Sustainable practices and recycling methods are gaining prominence, offering avenues to reduce the environmental impact and enhance the lifecycle management of solar panels.

Importance of understanding and addressing thermal effects

Understanding and addressing thermal effects on solar cells holds immense significance for various reasons. Firstly, it directly influences efficiency, a critical factor in optimizing energy generation within solar energy systems. A comprehensive approach to managing thermal challenges can result in efficiency gains, ultimately maximizing the energy yield of photovoltaic systems. Secondly, the longevity and reliability of solar panels, considered as long-term investments, hinge on effective thermal management. By mitigating thermal effects, the lifespan of solar panels can be extended, reducing maintenance costs and enhancing overall performance over the years. Economic viability is another crucial aspect. The efficiency of energy production and low operating costs are essential for the economic sustainability of solar energy. Addressing thermal effects directly contributes to cost-effectiveness, improving the return on investment for solar installations. Lastly, sustainability is a key driver behind the adoption of solar energy, contributing to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and environmental sustainability. Managing thermal effects aligns seamlessly with sustainability goals by ensuring the efficient utilization of solar resources, thereby reinforcing the role of solar energy in environmentally friendly energy solutions.

Practical recommendations

Practical recommendations for stakeholders in the solar energy sector involve a multifaceted approach. Researchers are encouraged to advance materials science by exploring advanced materials with enhanced thermal properties. Collaborative research, particularly interdisciplinary efforts, is essential for developing comprehensive solutions that address both electrical and thermal aspects of solar panels. Innovations in cooling technologies, such as microfluidic systems and phase-change materials, should be a focal point. Additionally, researchers should invest in modeling and simulation tools that accurately consider thermal effects in diverse environmental conditions. Engineers play a vital role in implementing effective cooling strategies tailored to specific environmental conditions. This includes the adoption of smart technologies, such as AI-driven tracking systems and dynamic shading devices, to optimize solar panel performance in real-time. Regular maintenance protocols, including cleaning to mitigate dust accumulation, and monitoring solar panel temperatures and performance, are crucial for early anomaly detection. Policymakers are urged to incentivize sustainable practices by creating policies that promote eco-friendly manufacturing processes for solar panels and support recycling programs to reduce environmental impact. Allocating resources to research and development in solar energy, with a specific focus on addressing thermal challenges and fostering innovation, is paramount. Furthermore, policymakers can accelerate the transition to renewable energy sources by encouraging solar adoption through favorable policies, including tax incentives, feed-in tariffs, and net metering. In conclusion, the future of solar energy is bright, but addressing thermal effects on solar cells is an essential component of unlocking its full potential. As we continue to advance in materials science, cooling technologies, and sustainable practices, we move closer to a world where solar energy is not only an efficient and reliable power source but also a cornerstone of a sustainable and environmentally conscious future. By understanding the complexities of thermal effects and embracing innovative solutions, we can harness the power of the sun to create a greener and more sustainable world for generations to come.

Availability of data and materials

The data and materials used in this review are sourced from publicly available scientific literature, research publications, and reputable online databases. Any specific data or materials cited in the manuscript can be referenced by the corresponding author upon request.

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Acknowledgements

The authors would like to acknowledge the support and guidance provided by their respective institutions and the collaborative effort that enabled the completion of this comprehensive review.

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The authors' contributions to this research project and manuscript are as follows: LMS contributed to the conceptualization, literature review, and data analysis, and played a significant role in writing and revising the manuscript. AAAA provided valuable insights into the theoretical aspects of thermal effects on solar cells and contributed to the critical analysis of relevant literature. MMH participated in the data collection and analysis, particularly in the sections related to experimental methods and case studies, and contributed to the manuscript's writing and editing. WKAA contributed to the discussions on emerging technologies and research directions, as well as the potential breakthroughs in the field. AAHK played a crucial role in reviewing and editing the manuscript for clarity, coherence, and scientific rigor.

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A Review on Solar PV Cell and Its Evolution

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Solar energy is fast emerging as a very effective process of power generation from the domain of renewable energy. A solar PV cell is the most crucial part of a solar energy system. The power generated by a PV system relies on many aspects. One of the important factors is solar PV cell materials that have a major bearing on its conversion efficiency. Therefore, this paper presents a detailed review of these materials that have evolved over the years. Their classification into different generations is presented along with its basic structure to give the researchers a jump start into this domain. Also, a detailed comparison of their efficiencies, merits, demerits, cost etc. is showcased.

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Advances in organic photovoltaic cells: a comprehensive review of materials, technologies, and performance

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First published on 19th April 2023

This paper provides a comprehensive overview of organic photovoltaic (OPV) cells, including their materials, technologies, and performance. In this context, the historical evolution of PV cell technology is explored, and the classification of PV production technologies is presented, along with a comparative analysis of first, second, and third-generation solar cells. A classification and comparison of PV cells based on materials used is also provided. The working principles and device structures of OPV cells are examined, and a brief comparison between device structures is made, highlighting their advantages, disadvantages, and key features. The various parts of OPV cells are discussed, and their performance, efficiency, and electrical characteristics are reviewed. A detailed SWOT analysis is conducted, identifying promising strengths and opportunities, as well as challenges and threats to the technology. The paper indicates that OPV cells have the potential to revolutionize the solar energy industry due to their low production costs, and ability to produce thin, flexible solar cells. However, challenges such as lower efficiency, durability, and technological limitations still exist. Despite these challenges, the tunability and versatility of organic materials offer promise for future success. The paper concludes by suggesting that future research should focus on addressing the identified challenges and developing new materials and technologies that can further improve the performance and efficiency of OPV cells.

1. Introduction and motivation

One of the main reasons for the importance of renewable energy is its potential to address climate change. 3,4 Greenhouse gas emissions from the burning of fossil fuels are a major contributor to global warming and climate change, and the use of renewable energy can help to reduce these emissions. In addition to reducing emissions, renewable energy can also help to reduce air pollution, which has a number of negative health impacts. Another important reason for the need for renewable energy is energy security. 5 By relying on domestic sources of energy, individuals and society can reduce their vulnerability to disruptions in the global energy market and ensure a stable and reliable supply of energy for the future. Renewable energy sources such as solar and wind are also less prone to supply disruptions than non-renewable sources, as they do not rely on finite resources that can be disrupted by geopolitical tensions or natural disasters. 6,7

Despite the many benefits of renewable energy, there are also challenges associated with its deployment. One of the main challenges is the upfront cost of developing and installing renewable energy technologies, which can be higher than the cost of non-renewable sources in the short term. 8 However, the long-term costs of renewable energy are often lower due to the fact that they do not require the constant purchase of fuel, and their costs are also likely to decrease as technology improves and economies of scale are achieved. 9,10

Among renewable energy sources, solar energy is perhaps the most well-known. It is generated using photovoltaic panels, which convert sunlight into electricity. Solar energy is a clean, renewable source of energy that is widely available and can be used in a variety of applications, including electricity generation, heating, and lighting. 11 One of the main benefits of solar energy is that it is relatively easy to install and maintain, and it can be used in a variety of locations, including urban, suburban, and rural areas. 12

Solar cells, also known as photovoltaic cells, are a type of renewable energy source that converts sunlight into electricity through a process called the photovoltaic effect. 13,14 They are made up of a semiconductor material that absorbs sunlight and releases electrons, which can be captured and used to generate electricity. There are several types of solar cells, including traditional inorganic cells made of silicon and newer organic cells made of polymers or small molecules.

Crystalline silicon cells are the most common type of solar cell and are made from a single crystal or polycrystalline silicon. They are efficient and durable, but can be expensive to produce. Organic solar cells, on the other hand, are made by depositing a thin layer of photovoltaic material onto a substrate, such as glass or polymeric material. They can also be made into a variety of shapes and sizes, making them more versatile. However, organic solar cells currently have lower efficiency rates and shorter lifetimes compared to traditional inorganic cells. Despite these limitations, research and development in the field of organic solar cells is ongoing, and there is potential for these materials to play a significant role in the future of solar energy.

As a result, there has been a growing interest in PV cell technology, which has the potential to provide clean, sustainable energy. In this context, this review paper aims to provide a comprehensive study of the evolution of PV cell technology, with a particular focus on OPV cells. The review makes several significant contributions to the existing literature on OPV cell, some of them are as follows:

• Providing a comprehensive overview of the evolution of photovoltaic cell technology and its historical context, including the classification of PV production technologies, comparison of PV cells based on the materials used, and a comparative analysis of first, second, and third-generation solar cells. This in-depth analysis provides valuable insight into the development of PV cells and the factors that have led to the emergence of OPV cells.

• Exploring the working principles and device structures of OPV cells, including a comparison of device structures. This provides a detailed analysis of the advantages and disadvantages of OPV cells, as well as their key features.

• Conducting a detailed SWOT analysis for OPV cells, revealing the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats associated with the technology. This analysis provides a comprehensive overview of the current state of the technology and the challenges and opportunities it faces.

• Analyzing the performance, efficiency, and electrical characteristics of photovoltaic cells, as well as the conversion efficiencies of OPV cells. By comparing the performance characteristics reported in recent literature on organic solar cells, the review highlights the latest trends and advancements in the field of OPV cells.

• Identifying several areas for future research and development, including improving efficiency and stability, developing new materials, and optimizing morphological characteristics for charge transport. These recommendations provide a valuable roadmap for future research and development in the field of OPV cells.

Overall, this review paper offers a detailed analysis and comprehensive perspective on the current state and future prospects of photovoltaic cell technology, with a specific focus on OPV cells. It is a valuable resource for researchers, engineers, and policymakers interested in the development of sustainable and efficient solar energy technologies.

2. PV generation technologies

2.1. historical overview of the evolution of pv cell technology.

In the early 20 th century, researchers such as Albert Einstein and Charles Fritts continued to study the photovoltaic effect and improve upon the efficiency of PV cells. Fritts, for example, created the first working PV cell by layering selenium and gold onto glass, which had an efficiency of only 1%. In the 1950s and 60s, the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union led to significant advancements in PV technology. 20,21 The US government invested heavily in the development of PV cells for use in space satellites. This led to the creation of more efficient and durable PV cells, with efficiencies reaching around 14%. 22

In the 1970s, the oil crisis led to increased interest in renewable energy sources, including PV technology. This resulted in the development of new materials and manufacturing techniques that further improved the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of PV cells. 23 In the 1980s and 90s, silicon-based PV cells became the dominant technology and were widely used in a variety of applications. This period also saw the development of thin-film PV cells, which used less silicon and were more cost-effective to produce.

In the 21 st century, PV technology has continued to evolve and improve. The efficiency of PV cells has reached over 25%, and new materials such as perovskite and quantum dots have been developed, which have the potential to further increase efficiency. The perovskite material was found to have high light absorption, high charge-carrier mobility, and a suitable band gap for solar energy conversion. 24,25 Since then, perovskite solar cells have attracted a lot of attention from the scientific community due to their high efficiency potential and low cost. The efficiency of perovskite solar cells has increased significantly over the years, with the current record efficiency at over 25%.

In parallel to the initial studies of PV cell technologies, the history of OPV cells can be traced back to the early 20 th century when scientists first started to explore the potential of organic materials as a substitute for traditional inorganic materials in solar cells. The researchers in ref. 26 demonstrated that the polymer could be used as a photoconductive material, generating electrical power when exposed to light. This was a significant development in organic solar cell technology and led to the creation of new materials and device architectures. Since then, research in the field of organic solar cells has continued, resulting in the development of more efficient and stable organic solar cell technologies. However, it was only in the latter part of the 20 th century that substantial progress was made in the advancement of OPV technology. In the 1970s and 80s, researchers delved into the utilization of polymers as active layers in solar cells. These early attempts yielded low efficiencies, usually below 1%. Nevertheless, they established the foundation for the creation of more sophisticated OPV cells in the following decades.

During the 1990s, the discovery of new conjugated polymers and small-molecule materials resulted in a marked improvement in the efficiency of OPV cells. Scientists were able to attain efficiencies of up to 4% using these new materials. 27,28 Additionally, the creation of new fabrication techniques, such as solution processing, made it possible to produce OPV cells at a lower cost. In the early 21 st century, the efficiency of OPV cells continued to advance, reaching around 18%. 29 This was partly due to the development of new materials and device architectures, as well as advancements in fabrication techniques. Moreover, researchers started to examine the use of multiple layers in OPV cells, which led to further increases in efficiency.

In recent years, scientists have made notable progress in the development of OPV cells with improved efficiency, stability and cost-effectiveness. The efficiency of OPV cells has reached up to 20% which is relatively higher than the early stage. 30,31 The development of new materials such as perovskite, fullerene derivatives, and new device architectures such as tandem cells have contributed to this improvement. Furthermore, advancements in manufacturing techniques have made OPV cells more affordable and accessible to a wider range of consumers. Briefly, the historical development of OPV cells has been marked by consistent progress in efficiency, stability, and cost-effectiveness. While OPV cells are still less efficient than traditional inorganic solar cells, they offer several advantages such as the potential for low-cost, large-scale production, and the ability to be flexible and transparent. As research continues to enhance the performance of OPV cells, it is likely that they will become an increasingly important part of the renewable energy mix in the future.

2.2. Generations of PV production technologies

First generation solar cells, also known as conventional or traditional solar cells, are made primarily of silicon. 34 These cells were first developed in the 1950s and have been the most widely used type of solar cell to date. 35,36 The efficiency of these cells ranges from 6–15%, but through continuous research and development, the efficiency of these cells has increased significantly over the years and now reaches levels of up to 25% as illustrated in Fig. 2 . 37

First generation solar cells have some limitations, such as a relatively low efficiency and a high cost of raw materials. Their efficiency drops significantly in high temperatures, which can cause power loss. Recent research has been focused on developing new materials and technologies to improve the efficiency and to reduce the cost of production.

Second generation solar cells, also known as thin-film solar cells, are made from materials like copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS), cadmium telluride (CdTe) and amorphous silicon (a-Si). 37,38 They are thinner than traditional solar cells and have a higher tolerance to temperature changes, with an efficiency range of 10–15%. They use less material, are more flexible, lightweight, and can be manufactured using a roll-to-roll process which makes it more cost-effective. These cells are good for building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) and portable and lightweight solar panels for outdoor activities. 39 They have lower efficiency and performance can degrade over time and their long-term stability and durability are not yet well understood. They are becoming more popular due to cost-effectiveness and versatility but research and development is ongoing to improve their efficiency, lifetime, and cost-effectiveness to make them more competitive with traditional solar cells. 40

Third generation solar cells, some of which are highlighted in ref. 41–49 , are important because they utilize materials that are cheaper than those used in first- and second-generation solar cells. These materials, such as perovskites, notable examples of which can be found in ref. 50–55 , are abundant and can be processed using low-cost manufacturing techniques. As a result, third generation solar cells have the potential to significantly reduce the cost of solar energy, 42 making it more accessible to people around the world. 43 Additionally, third generation solar cells are capable of achieving higher efficiencies than previous generations, meaning that they can generate more electricity from the same amount of sunlight. 44,56 This makes them an attractive option for both large-scale and small-scale solar energy applications.

2.3. Comparative analysis of first, second, and third generation solar cells

3. advances in material preparation for pv cells, 3.1. classification and comparison of pv cells based on materials used.

Silicon-based cells are the most common type of photovoltaic cells, comprising over 90% of the global PV market. They were first invented by Bell Labs in 1954 and are used in residential and commercial solar power systems. 57,58 Crystalline silicon cells are made from silicon wafers, while amorphous silicon cells are made from a thin film of silicon deposited on a substrate. While crystalline silicon cells have high efficiency, durability, and reliability, amorphous silicon cells are less efficient but cheaper to produce and can be used in flexible and lightweight applications.

Thin-film cells are another type of photovoltaic cells made from materials like CdTe, CIGS, and amorphous silicon. The first thin-film solar cell, made from CdTe, was developed by the U.S. government's National Renewable Energy Laboratory in 1981. 59 Thin-film cells are cheaper to produce and have a lower environmental impact than silicon-based cells. CdTe cells are widely used in utility-scale solar projects, while CIGS cells are used in residential and commercial applications due to their higher efficiency. 60,61 Amorphous silicon cells are suitable for small-scale applications like pocket calculators and electronic watches.

Dye-sensitized cells (DSSC) are another type of photovoltaic cells that use a photosensitive dye to absorb light and generate electricity. 62 Brian O'Regan and Michael Grätzel co-invented the contemporary edition of a DSSC in 1988, which they continued to refine until the release of the initial high-performance DSSC in 1991. These cells are less efficient than silicon-based cells but are cheaper to produce and can be made into flexible and transparent materials. DSSCs are used in portable devices, building-integrated photovoltaics, and other low-power applications.

Organic cells use organic materials such as polymers 63–65 to generate electricity. The first organic solar cell was reported by researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara in 1986. These cells are lightweight, flexible, and have a low environmental impact. 66–68 However, their efficiency is lower than that of silicon-based cells, and they have a shorter lifespan. 69 Organic cells are used in small-scale applications such as portable devices and flexible electronics. 70,71

Multi-junction cells are photovoltaic cells made from layers of different materials that can absorb different wavelengths of light. The first multi-junction solar cell was made by the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory in 1989. 72,73 These cells are used in high-concentration photovoltaic systems and space applications. Multi-junction cells have the highest efficiency among all photovoltaic cells, with a record efficiency of 47.1% in the laboratory.

Concentrator cells use lenses or mirrors to focus sunlight onto a small area of a solar cell. This can significantly increase the efficiency by reducing the amount of material needed to generate electricity. 74,75 The first concentrator solar cell was made by Boeing in 1974. Concentrator cells are used in utility-scale solar projects and high-concentration PV systems. 76–78

Hybrid cells, some of which are highlighted in ref. 78–84 , use a combination of different types of materials to achieve higher efficiencies. In 2015, the first-ever of perovskite/silicon tandem solar cell with two terminals was introduced. 85 Perovskite cells have high efficiency but are not durable, while silicon solar cells have lower efficiency but are durable. By combining these two types, a hybrid cell can achieve both high efficiency and durability. 86,87

It is important to note that the development of these photovoltaic cell technologies is ongoing, and new advancements and breakthroughs are constantly being made. However, relying on the above summarized descriptions, a general comparison for different types of PV cells can be made as in Table 2 that demonstrates that OPV cells have attracted significant attention among PV technologies due to their several benefits. Firstly, they offer the potential for low-cost, sustainable production due to their use of organic materials and low-energy manufacturing processes. Secondly, their flexibility and lightweight design make them ideal for use in a variety of applications, including indoor and portable settings where direct sunlight may not be available. Thirdly, their performance in low-light conditions is better than that of traditional silicon-based PV cells. Finally, because OPV technology is still in its early stages of development, there is considerable scope for innovation and discovery in the field, providing opportunities for cutting-edge research and new applications.

4. Organic PV cells

OPVs currently have lower efficiency levels, typically around 5–10%, compared to 15–20% for silicon-based cells. 92–95 Despite this, research in the field is ongoing and scientists are working to improve the efficiency of polymer-based solar cells through various methods such as incorporating new materials and optimizing the cell structure. 96,97 In recent years, the rapid increase in the power conversion efficiency of OPVs has led to increased scientific and economic interest. 98–101

4.1. Working principles of OPV cells

4.2. device structure of opv cells.

The single-layer OPV cell typically includes the following layers.

The anode is typically made of a transparent conductive oxide such as indium tin oxide or fluorine-doped tin oxide, while the cathode is typically made of a metal such as aluminum, silver, or gold. When sunlight strikes the bulk heterojunction OPV cell, it creates an exciton in the electron-donating material. The exciton is then separated into an electron and a hole, which are transported to the electron-accepting material and the anode, respectively. The electrons and holes then flow through their respective materials and the external circuit, creating a photocurrent that can be used to generate electricity. 124

The junction between the two sub-cells allows for the efficient transfer of charge carriers between the two sub-cells. In a tandem PV cell, the bandgap of the first sub-cell is typically higher than the bandgap of the second sub-cell, which allows the first sub-cell to absorb the high-energy photons while the second sub-cell absorbs the low-energy photons. 126,127 Overall, the use of tandem PV cells can improve the efficiency of a solar cell by allowing for a wider range of the solar spectrum to be absorbed and converted into electricity.

4.3. Parts of the OPV cells

The conjugated polymer can be designed with a low ionization energy, allowing it to donate electrons when excited by light. In contrast, the fullerene derivative has a high electron affinity, enabling it to accept electrons from the excited polymer. The resulting exciton dissociation leads to the generation of free electrons and holes, which can then be collected at the electrodes to produce an electric current. The selection of donor–acceptor compounds depends on factors such as their absorption spectra, energy levels, and solubility, as well as the desired efficiency and stability of the OPV cell.

In recent years, there has been a significant amount of research focused on the development of organic semiconductors for use in OPV cells. 135,136 The performance of these devices is highly dependent on the electronic properties and structure–function relationships of the materials used. 137,138 As a result, a deep understanding of these properties and relationships is essential for designing and developing high-performance organic semiconductors for use in OPV cells. 139

4.4. Performance and efficiency of OPV cells

In addition to the above-mentioned characteristics, the temperature coefficient of photovoltaic cells is also an important parameter that needs to be considered. This coefficient refers to the change in the performance of the cell with respect to temperature changes. Photovoltaic cells generally have a negative temperature coefficient, meaning that their performance decreases with an increase in temperature. 155,156

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is a reputable research center that specializes in renewable energy and energy efficiency. 157 They publish detailed reports on these topics and maintain a chart that tracks the highest confirmed conversion efficiencies for research cells across various photovoltaic technologies. This chart spans from 1976 to the present day and serves as a valuable tool for tracking the historical development of PV cell technology. NREL's data is particularly noteworthy, as it provides a comprehensive view of the progression of PV cell technology across different structures. Fig. 7 in their report illustrates this development over time. Additionally, the report includes a more detailed graph, shown in Fig. 8 , which specifically focuses on OPVs.

Fig. 7 and 8 demonstrate that current PV cell technologies are capable of achieving efficiencies greater than 40%. However, this level of efficiency is currently limited to multi-junction and concentrated cells, which are efficient but not yet widely used due to their high cost and limited economic feasibility. A similar scenario is also observed in cells based on inorganic materials. In the case of organic cell technology, current efficiencies can reach up to 18%. While this is not as high as multi-junction or concentrated cells, it is noteworthy given the lower cost and greater feasibility of organic cells. Continued research and development in all areas of PV cell technology will be necessary to further improve efficiency, reduce costs, and increase economic viability.

Recent literature on the OPV cell technology corroborates the efficiency rates reported by NREL. For example, recent review studies conducted by Li Y. et al. 158 and H. Gao et al. 159 reported that the latest developments in OPV cells have achieved a PCE% of up to 18.6% and an FF% of approximately 80%. These findings are consistent with the data presented in NREL's report. Fig. 9 , which depicts reported PCE and FF rates of OPV cells in above references, provides advances achieved in recent studies. As seen, the FF% values range from 54% to 81.5%, while the PCE% values range from 5.72% to 18.6%. The highest FF% and PCE% values reported are 81.5% and 18.6%, respectively, while the lowest values reported are 54% and 5.72%, respectively.

Fill factor is an important parameter that measures how effectively a solar cell can convert incident light into electrical power. A higher FF% value indicates that the device can collect a larger fraction of the generated current, which results in higher output power. In Fig. 9 , the average FF% value is 70.2%, which indicates that most of the devices have good fill factors.

Similarly, power conversion efficiency (PCE) is the most commonly used parameter to compare the performance of different solar cell technologies. It measures the percentage of incident solar energy that can be converted into electrical power. The highest PCE% value reported in Fig. 9 is 18.6%, which is close to the current record for OPV cells. However, the average PCE% value is only 13.7%, indicating that there is still significant room for improvement.

Fig. 9 also verifies that there exists a positive relationship between fill factor and power conversion efficiency in photovoltaic cells. Specifically, a higher fill factor typically results in a higher power conversion efficiency. This can be attributed to the fact that a higher fill factor indicates that a larger portion of the incident light is being converted into useable electrical power, which in turn leads to an increase in overall efficiency. However, there is typically a trade-off between fill factor and power conversion efficiency. This is because improving one parameter often comes at the expense of the other. For example, increasing the fill factor can be achieved by reducing the resistance of the solar cell, but this can also lead to an increase in the recombination rate of charge carriers, which can reduce the overall efficiency of the cell. Similarly, increasing the power conversion efficiency can be achieved by improving the collection of charge carriers, but this can also lead to an increase in the dark current, which can reduce the fill factor. Therefore, the optimal balance between fill factor and power conversion efficiency depends on the specific design and operating conditions of the solar cell, and requires careful optimization.

5. Evaluation and assessment

As clearly seen in Table 4 , organic PV cells have a natural advantage over other types of PV cells due to their transparent characteristics, which make them ideal for integration with building-integrated photovoltaics, such as windows. However, a critical challenge for efficient organic PV cells is the trade-off between average visible light transmittance (AVT) and power conversion efficiency (PCE). The recent development of materials that yield simultaneously high levels of efficiency and transparency brings the opportunity to enter important niche markets. Researchers have successfully designed and constructed a superior transparent rear electrode for efficient transparent organic photovoltaics via integrating an aperiodic band-pass filter (ABPF). The integrated rear electrode exhibits an AVT of up to 78.69%, a color-rendering index (CRI) of 97.54, and a total reflection in the near-infrared region (700–900 nm). As a result, ABPF-integrated transparent organic photovoltaics demonstrate a record-breaking light utilization efficiency (LUE) of 5.35%, accompanied with an AVT of 46.79% and CRI of 85.39. Reinforcing research efforts on topics such as improvement in device lifetime, color portfolio, and module design and efficiency will help in making a significant effect on changing the status of organic photovoltaics from a novel technology to a mature industry. 238–240

Similar to their transparent characteristics, one of the key features of OPV cells is their tunability, which refers to their ability to be easily modified to meet specific application requirements. Organic materials used in PV cells can be easily synthesized and modified, allowing for a high degree of control over the cell's optical and electrical properties. This means that the cells can be designed to absorb specific wavelengths of light, making them suitable for a range of applications, from powering small electronic devices to generating electricity on a larger scale. Another important feature of OPV cells is their versatility. Unlike traditional silicon-based solar cells, OPV cells can be manufactured using low-cost, flexible substrates, such as plastic or metal foils. This flexibility allows for the cells to be integrated into a variety of surfaces, including curved or irregular shapes, making them ideal for use in portable and wearable electronics, as well as building-integrated photovoltaic systems. Additionally, OPV cells have the potential to be produced in large quantities using roll-to-roll printing techniques, which could significantly reduce production costs and increase their accessibility to a wider range of applications.

On the other hand, to overcome the challenges emphasized in Table 4 , it will be important for the OPV cell industry to focus on research and development to improve the efficiency, durability, and stability of the technology. 241–246 Addressing these technological limitations will help to increase the commercial viability of OPV cells and enable them to compete with traditional solar cells and other renewable energy technologies. Additionally, collaboration with governments, policymakers, and stakeholders can help to create a more favorable regulatory environment for OPV cells and facilitate their adoption.

In conclusion, while OPV cells face significant challenges, their potential for sustainable and eco-friendly energy production is promising. The OPV cell industry should work towards addressing the weaknesses and threats identified in the SWOT analysis, while continuing to build on their strengths and opportunities, to enable the widespread adoption of this technology in the future.

6. Conclusion

The SWOT analysis reveals a promising future for the technology, but also highlights several challenges and areas for improvement. Despite the strengths of OPV cells, the technology still faces weaknesses such as limited efficiency, durability and stability issues, sensitivity to temperature, and limited lifespan. However, there are opportunities to improve the technology, including the development of new materials, growing demand for renewable energy sources, favorable government policies and incentives, growing consumer awareness and demand for sustainable and environmentally friendly products, emerging markets and industries, and collaboration and investment from major companies. The review also identifies potential threats to the adoption and commercial viability of OPV cells, including competition from traditional solar cells and other renewable energy technologies, technological limitations and research challenges, regulatory and policy risks, supply chain risks, and economic risks.

The review indicates that OPV cells have the potential to revolutionize the solar energy industry due to their compatibility with printing technologies and the ability to produce thin, flexible solar cells. However, challenges such as preventing recombination, improving absorption in the visible to near-infrared part of the solar spectrum, and optimizing morphological characteristics for charge transport still exist. Despite these challenges, researchers are making steady progress, and the tunability and versatility of organic materials offer promise for future success. The potential applications for thin, flexible OPV cells are exciting, including powering remote or underdeveloped areas and charging internal devices.

Overall, this review highlights the significant advancements and challenges in the development of OPV cells. It is hoped that this paper will serve as a valuable resource for researchers, policymakers, and stakeholders interested in the development of sustainable and efficient solar energy technologies. Future research should focus on addressing the challenges identified in this paper and developing new materials and technologies that can further improve the performance and efficiency of OPV cells.

Conflicts of interest

Acknowledgements.

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ScienceDaily

New high-performance solar cell material

A Dartmouth Engineering-led study published in Joule reported the discovery of an entirely new high-performance material for solar absorbers -- the central part of a solar cell that turns light into electricity -- that is stable and earth-abundant. The researchers used a unique high-throughput computational screening method to accelerate the discovery process and were able to quickly evaluate approximately 40,000 known candidate materials.

"This is the first example in the field of photovoltaics where a new material has been found through this type of approach with an experimental follow-up," said Geoffroy Hautier, Dartmouth's Hodgson Family Associate Professor of Engineering. "Most people study one or two materials at a time, and we looked at forty thousand."

Dartmouth researcher Zhenkun Yuan is first author on the study with co-authors including research associate Yihuang Xiong, engineering PhD candidates Gideon Kassa and Andrew Pike, and engineering professors Hautier and Jifeng Liu -- as well as researchers from eight other partner institutions. This research stems from an award Hautier and Liu received in 2022 as part of $540 million the US Department of Energy granted to universities and National Laboratories nationwide to develop clean-energy technologies, including new photovoltaic materials.

The solar absorber material was confirmed in the lab to be not only promising in its ability to efficiently transform light into electricity, but also highly stable in both air and water. "You can put it out for six months and it will stay the same," Hautier said. "When you don't have to worry about moisture and air contamination, that significantly reduces your costs."

The study points out that, normally, finding new solar materials is tedious and slow with an overwhelming number of options to even begin to consider.

"We've been building a database of known materials -- both naturally occurring and human-made -- for a long time," Hautier explained. "That's giving us the capability to rapidly screen and make decisions on what may or may not be useful. We weren't able to screen for stability, but we could narrow it down to approximately 20 reasonable solar materials -- among the thousands and thousands of possibilities -- and after talking with our colleagues, we had a feeling this one would be stable."

The team plans to continue to improve the tools for even better screening, as well as explore the entire family of materials they call "Zintls," which could lead to enhancements and optimizations of the discovered material.

"There are a lot of opportunities around further characterizing this material and understanding it better, such as how it absorbs light and how to make it as a thin film," said Liu, who conducts and oversees materials-testing in his lab. "Collaboration is crucial. It takes a whole community of thinkers and many different skills to make it all work -- computing, experimentation, fabrication, characterization, optimization -- and you need to put all that together in a team."

"We won't have it as a solar panel tomorrow," Hautier said, "but we think this family of materials is exceptional and worth looking at."

  • Materials Science
  • Civil Engineering
  • Solar Energy
  • Engineering and Construction
  • Energy and the Environment
  • Renewable Energy
  • Environmental Science
  • History of Earth
  • Solar power
  • Solar panel
  • Materials science
  • Hadley cell

Story Source:

Materials provided by Dartmouth College . Original written by Catha Mayor. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference :

  • Zhenkun Yuan, Diana Dahliah, Muhammad Rubaiat Hasan, Gideon Kassa, Andrew Pike, Shaham Quadir, Romain Claes, Cierra Chandler, Yihuang Xiong, Victoria Kyveryga, Philip Yox, Gian-Marco Rignanese, Ismaila Dabo, Andriy Zakutayev, David P. Fenning, Obadiah G. Reid, Sage Bauers, Jifeng Liu, Kirill Kovnir, Geoffroy Hautier. Discovery of the Zintl-phosphide BaCd2P2 as a long carrier lifetime and stable solar absorber . Joule , 2024; DOI: 10.1016/j.joule.2024.02.017

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  18. A Review on Solar PV Cell and Its Evolution

    A solar PV cell is the most crucial part of a solar energy system. The power generated by a PV system relies on many aspects. One of the important factors is solar PV cell materials that have a major bearing on its conversion efficiency. Therefore, this paper presents a detailed review of these materials that have evolved over the years.

  19. A review on perovskite solar cells (PSCs), materials and applications

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  20. Advances in organic photovoltaic cells: a comprehensive review of

    By comparing the performance characteristics reported in recent literature on organic solar cells, the review highlights the latest trends and advancements in the field of OPV cells. • Identifying several areas for future research and development, including improving efficiency and stability, developing new materials, and optimizing ...

  21. Bio‑based materials for solar cells

    Plant‑based materials are emerging as an alternative to conventional components in advanced energy applications. Among these, energy harvesting from sunlight is highly attractive and, in fact, represents the fastest growing energy technology. This review addresses the broad field of solar cell science since plant‑based components can be utilized in almost all solar technologies, and in ...

  22. (PDF) Literature Review Article for Solar Cell

    So different types of solar Cells are going to introduced, and lot of improvements and modification is going on in this field. ... This literature review provides an overview of research about ...

  23. A holistic and state-of-the-art review of nanotechnology in solar cells

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  24. New high-performance solar cell material

    A new study reports the discovery of an entirely new stable, earth-abundant, high-performance material for solar absorbers -- the central part of a solar cell that turns light into electricity.

  25. A detailed review of perovskite solar cells: Introduction, working

    The perovskite solar cell devices are made of an active layer stacked between ultrathin carrier transport materials, such as a hole transport layer (HTL) and an electron transport layer (ETL). ... including external quantum efficiency. However, the literature review reveals that lesser outputs due to improper selection of the perovskite ...