Solar cells based on a material known as perovskite can emit light

Multi-tasking solar panels to serve as touch screens

Researchers from Singapore have developed a material capable of turning sunlight into energy while emitting light at the same time.

The team from the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) believes the innovative solar cells, based on a material called perovskite, could in the future be used to manufacture smartphone and tablet screens, which, when out in the sun, could also recharge the gadget’s batteries.

The photovoltaic material, capable of emitting light of different colours upon customisation, has been described in the recent issue of the Nature Materials journal.

According to Sum Tze Chien, an NTU physicist behind the discovery, the material and its properties were discovered nearly by accident.

“What we have discovered is that  it is a high quality material, and very durable under light exposure, it can capture light particles and convert them to electricity, or vice versa,” said Sum.

It was Sum, who instructed his student, a postdoc researcher Xing Guichuan to aim a laser beam on the new hybrid Perovskite solar cell material they were developing.

Much to their surprise, Sum said, the new Perovskite solar cell started glowing brightly under the laser light – behaviour not observed in any other photovoltaic material before.

“By tuning the composition of the material, we can make it emit a wide range of colours, which also makes it suitable as a light emitting device, such as a flat screen display.”

Nripan Mathews, another researcher involved in the project, said the semi-translucent material could possibly be used in a wide range of applications.

“It can be used as tinted glass to replace current windows, yet it is able to generate electricity from sunlight.The fact that it can also emit light makes it useful as light decorations or displays for the facades of shopping malls and offices,” Mathews said.

“Such a versatile yet low-cost material would be a boon for green buildings. Since we are already working on the scaling up of these materials for large-scale solar cells, it is pretty straightforward to modify the procedures to fabricate light emitting devices as well.”

Thanks to a simple manufacturing process, the team says, the perovskite-based material is five times cheaper than conventional silicon-based photovoltaic cells.

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