NMR spectroscopy facilitates advancement in solar energy cells | AltEnergyMag
NMR spectroscopy facilitates advancement in solar energy cells AltEnergyMag
The Role of Solid-State NMR in Advancing Solar Energy Cells
As the climate crisis deepens, finding alternatives to our current energy sources becomes increasingly urgent. Solar energy has emerged as one of the most significant alternatives to fossil fuels. It is abundant, renewable, and has the potential to not only benefit countries reliant on electricity but also improve the lives of the 800 million people worldwide without access to electricity. The United Nations reports that approximately 29 percent of electricity currently comes from renewable sources, indicating the potential for further expansion.
The Need for Diversifying Energy Sources
Solar cells (SCs) made primarily of silicon, which account for over 90 percent of produced cells, require energy-intensive manufacturing processes. The fabrication of silicon SCs involves high temperatures (~1400 °C), potential environmental material leakage, and limited recycling, contributing to landfill waste. In contrast, halide-based perovskite solar cells (PSCs) have emerged as a promising alternative in the last 15 years. They offer excellent power conversion efficiency, require milder manufacturing conditions, and are significantly lighter than silicon SCs.
The University of Birmingham’s School of Chemistry is conducting research on the development of new solar cell materials. The team utilizes solid-state nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy and other characterization techniques to investigate promising structures for optoelectronics. Their focus is on understanding the causes of rapid degradation in halide-based PSCs to improve access to solar power and minimize the environmental impact of alternative energy sources.
Analyzing Halide Perovskites at the Atomic Level
Previous research on halide perovskites has been challenging due to their complex chemical composition. Solid-state NMR provides quantitative insights into specific isotopes, allowing researchers to understand the behavior of each component within a functioning solar cell. In situ NMR enables real-time monitoring of degradation caused by light, humidity, and ambient air by studying the dynamics and mobility of ions within the perovskite structure. This understanding is crucial for improving the efficiency and stability of solar cells.
Combining NMR with various synthetic strategies, diffraction, and optical spectroscopies provides insights into the materials needed to create more sustainable solar cells. Mechanosynthesis, a green protocol for synthesizing diverse materials, plays a significant role in this research.
Future Capabilities of Solid-State NMR
The collaboration between the University of Birmingham and Northwestern University aims to develop triple-junction solar cells, which stack different solar cell absorbers on top of each other. Solid-state NMR has been instrumental in understanding the effectiveness and operational stability of these stacked compositions.
Collaborative research with the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL) explores the use of dynamic nuclear polarization (DNP) with magic-angle spinning (MAS) to enhance the selectivity and sensitivity of NMR analysis. This technique has shown significant enhancements in sensitivity and reduced experiment time.
By harnessing the power of solid-state NMR, researchers aim to design solar cells with longer lifespans, leading to better efficiency, reduced costs, lower use of toxic materials, and improved stability and performance.
Designing Environmentally Friendly Solar Cells
The urgency of the climate crisis has highlighted the need for environmentally friendly solar cells with lower environmental impact throughout their lifecycle. Halide-based PSCs offer milder manufacturing conditions and require fewer photo absorbers, making them lighter and easier to transport. However, they degrade more rapidly than silicon. Solid-state NMR is instrumental in uncovering the degradation processes and designing solar cells with extended lifespans.
Ongoing research on halide PSCs aims to increase their lifespan from one year to a decade or more. The combination of DNP with MAS expands the capabilities of solid-state NMR, enabling the study of atomic-level structural information in perovskite samples.
Ultimately, longer-lasting solar cells will reduce our dependence on non-renewable energy sources and improve access to electricity for millions of people worldwide.
About the Author
Dominik J. Kubicki is an Assistant Professor in the School of Chemistry at the University of Birmingham, UK. He is also a Visiting Professor in the Department of Physics at the University of Warwick. With a background in engineering and a PhD from EPFL, Switzerland, Kubicki focuses on developing new materials for sustainable optoelectronic technologies. His research benefits from the capabilities of the UK High-Field Solid-State NMR Facility at the University of Warwick.
SDGs, Targets, and Indicators
1. Which SDGs are addressed or connected to the issues highlighted in the article?
- SDG 7: Affordable and Clean Energy
- SDG 9: Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure
- SDG 13: Climate Action
- SDG 17: Partnerships for the Goals
The article discusses the need for alternative energy sources to address the climate crisis, specifically focusing on solar energy as a sustainable solution. This aligns with SDG 7, which aims to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all. The development of new solar cell materials and the use of solid-state nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy for research purposes also connect to SDG 9, which promotes the development of resilient infrastructure and the facilitation of sustainable industrialization. Additionally, addressing the climate crisis and reducing reliance on fossil fuels aligns with SDG 13. Finally, the collaborative research efforts mentioned in the article highlight the importance of partnerships for achieving these goals, linking to SDG 17.
2. What specific targets under those SDGs can be identified based on the article’s content?
- SDG 7.2: Increase substantially the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix
- SDG 9.5: Enhance scientific research, upgrade technological capabilities, and encourage innovation
- SDG 13.2: Integrate climate change measures into national policies, strategies, and planning
- SDG 17.16: Enhance the global partnership for sustainable development
The article’s content suggests the following targets:
– SDG 7.2: The expansion of solar energy as an alternative to fossil fuels contributes to increasing the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix.
– SDG 9.5: The use of solid-state NMR spectroscopy and other characterization techniques for research purposes demonstrates the enhancement of scientific research and technological capabilities in the field of solar cell materials.
– SDG 13.2: The development of sustainable and environmentally friendly solar cells addresses climate change measures by reducing reliance on fossil fuels and minimizing environmental impact.
– SDG 17.16: The collaborative research efforts between different institutions and researchers indicate the importance of partnerships for achieving sustainable development goals.
3. Are there any indicators mentioned or implied in the article that can be used to measure progress towards the identified targets?
Yes, there are indicators mentioned or implied in the article that can be used to measure progress towards the identified targets. These indicators include:
– Share of renewable energy in the global energy mix: The article mentions that about 29 percent of electricity currently comes from renewable sources, indicating a baseline for measuring progress towards increasing this share.
– Research advancements and innovations: The use of solid-state NMR spectroscopy and other characterization techniques for research purposes demonstrates progress in enhancing scientific research and technological capabilities.
– Environmental impact reduction: The development of sustainable and environmentally friendly solar cells, such as halide perovskite solar cells, indicates progress in reducing the environmental impact of energy sources.
– Collaborative partnerships: The collaborative research efforts between different institutions and researchers highlight progress in enhancing global partnerships for sustainable development.
SDGs, Targets, and Indicators Table
|SDG 7: Affordable and Clean Energy
|7.2: Increase substantially the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix
|– Share of renewable energy in the global energy mix
|SDG 9: Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure
|9.5: Enhance scientific research, upgrade technological capabilities, and encourage innovation
|– Research advancements and innovations
|SDG 13: Climate Action
|13.2: Integrate climate change measures into national policies, strategies, and planning
|– Environmental impact reduction
|SDG 17: Partnerships for the Goals
|17.16: Enhance the global partnership for sustainable development
|– Collaborative partnerships
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