New database to accelerate innovation in emerging photovoltaics


Researchers publish an up-to-date and easy-to-access platform with a global scope.

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A new database for collecting, displaying, and analyzing the performance of emerging photovoltaic technologies has been spearheaded by researchers in a worldwide international consortium: the Emerging PV Reports initiative.

Photovoltaic technologies are most commonly associated with the transition to a green, renewable energy infrastructure, with images of large surface solar farms or roof integrated installations coming to mind.

Tracking the power conversion efficiency of current solar technologies is made possible for industry professionals, researchers, and the general public through the NREL’s Best Research-Cell Efficiency chart or, for a more academic-oriented community, through efficiency tables compiled biannually in the journal Progress in Photovoltaics.

While instrumental in established technologies, current surveys lack information regarding the material and device architectures for newer technologies. Additionally, no attention is systematically payed to photovoltaic materials for new applications.

In contrast to established solar technologies, emerging photovoltaics focus on a variety of applications complementing large scale electricity generation. For instance, organic, dye-sensitized and some perovskite solar cells integrated into building design, greenhouses, wearable and indoors as textile fibers, jackets, T-shirts, toys or lamp covers. These many applications have motivated more research on new flexible, transparent, semitransparent, and multi-junction cells, and their photostability.

In order to provide an up-to-date and easy-to-access platform with a global scope, the Emerging PV initiative was established by a consortium of experienced academic researchers from more than 15 countries, all of whom are experts in new and emerging photovoltaic research directions.

The resulting Emerging PV report was assembled through critical analysis of peer reviewed publications on top-performing materials and devices with the goal of presenting a series of periodical survey articles in the journal Advanced Energy Materials. The first article is already online, as well as the Emerging PV website and database, which are meant to be the driving platform for future iterations. The website not only offers sophisticated quality controls to achieve the highest data standards, but is also planned to facilitate and provide the future development of machine learning algorithms to predict device and material optimizations.

The aim with this initiative as a whole is to better visualize emerging photovoltaic materials and state-of-the-art devices by providing a global overview of the research field with the hope that it may facilitate future research and industry strategies.

From the beginning, important distinctive technical features like flexibility, transparency, and photostability of solar cells were included in the analysis, with emphasis on perovskite, organic, and dye-sensitized solar cells. Device performance along a wide range of photovoltaic bandgaps of each technology and application is presented in comparative analyses with respect to the theoretical Shockley-Queisser efficiency limit.

By taking a detailed look at the first version of this database, researchers can also identify gaps or limitations in the field — namely that there are currently too few peer reviewed manuscripts reporting operational lifetime of emerging photovoltaics under well controlled conditions.

This “first chapter” of the Emerging-PV reports is a starting point. The plans are to periodically publish the surveys and to continuously build and expand the database to further exciting technologies, such as quantum-dots, tandems, up- and down-conversion. This will hopefully be a catalyzer for the development of emerging photovoltaics and the rise of next generations of photovoltaic materials.

Written by: Osbel Almora and Christoph J. Brabec, Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen Nuremberg, Germany

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