If you had your head shaved at a barbershop near the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) site last year, there’s a possibility that you’ve helped in advancing Australia’s cutting-edge solar technology.
Human hair clippings from a Brisbane barbershop were used by Australian scientists to build ‘shields’ that improve the energy conversion capacity of perovskite solar cells.
QUT researchers created carbon dots using human hair snippets. Carbon dots are carbon-based materials with dimensions in the tens of nanometers range. These materials will then be used to improve the effectiveness of perovskite solar cells.
The was able to create a wave-like nanoparticle coating by surrounding the perovskite particles with carbon dots. The coating functions as a defensive layer, similar to armor. According to the program’s lead researcher, Professor Hongxia Wang, the perovskite surface is protected from moisture and other environmental factors.
Perovskite solar cells have shown great potential in the never-ending global search to generate even lower-cost and higher-efficiency solar PV energy, but they still face a range of major commercial reliability challenges, including dependability and exorbitant costs.
The concept was partly inspired by unrelated QUT research. Prashant Sonar’s team, which included senior researcher Amandeep Singh Pannu, converted hair strips into carbon nanodots by tearing them apart and then heating them at 240°C.
In that research, the researchers demonstrated that carbon dots could be converted into versatile displays that could be utilized in upcoming smart devices.
Professor Wang’s team decided to take things a step further after learning that nanostructured carbon materials could be used to boost cell performance. His team then discovered that perovskite solar cells surrounded with carbon dots were more stable in terms of performance compared to perovskite cells without any carbon dot around.
Professor Wang said that the key challenges in perovskite solar cell development include maintaining the device’s stability so that it can run for 20 years at the very least. Trying to develop a manufacturing system appropriate for large production is also a challenge.
In the long run, the research team’s ultimate goal is to make solar energy cheaper, more accessible, and long-lasting, as well as to make PV devices lighter because current solar panels are very bulky.
To make the product economically attractive, obstacles such as the need for a wide area as well as a stable and regulated environment must be addressed when fabricating perovskite solar cells. Currently, all documented perovskite solar cell production has been done in a controlled environment with relatively low levels of oxygen and moisture.