PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Nitin Padture, a professor of engineering and director of Brown’s Institute for Molecular and Nanoscale Innovation, will deliver a virtual Presidential Faculty Award lecture on Thursday, April 8. His presentation, titled “The Promise of Innovations in Solar Photovoltaics,” will draw on his research in developing next-generation solar technologies.
In recent years, Padture has focused his research on a class of crystalline materials called perovskites, which have emerged as a promising alternative to traditional silicon for making solar cells. Perovskite cells are less expensive to produce than silicon, yet are almost as efficient in converting sunlight to electricity. Perovskites can also be made into very thin, nearly transparent films. That raises the possibility of energy-producing windows or flexible solar panels incorporated in tents, backpacks and elsewhere.
“Solar is really leading the way in terms of renewable energy right now, and part of the reason is that the cost of solar has been steadily declining,” Padture said. “But that decline is starting to level off now because of some fixed costs associated with silicon, and that’s where perovskites come in. They’re Earth-abundant and inexpensive, so they could play a role in making pennies-per-watt energy attainable.”
Padture’s research focuses on ways of bringing perovskite technology from the lab to the market. As promising as perovskites are, there are still challenges to overcome before they’re ready for prime time. For example, the crystalline structure of the materials is fragile and degrades when exposed to the environment. Another issue has to do with layering of components within perovskite solar cells. The interfaces between those layers are problematic weak points that can reduce the cell’s performance and durability.