An international team of scientists that includes NIU researchers has mapped out a pioneering route…
Tao Xu is on a mission to harness the sun, and he plans to have NIU students give him a hand.
The NIU chemistry and biochemistry professor has been working for years to further develop perovskite solar cells, and his efforts continue to gain momentum. Perovskite solar cells are not yet used commercially but are considered rising stars in the field of photovoltaics, which explores the conversion of light into electricity.
The National Science Foundation recently awarded Xu with a grant of more than $300,000 over three years to support his efforts. Additionally, Xu and his Ph.D. student, Jue Gong, were part of a team of scientists reporting new developments in their research last month in the prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Perovskite solar cells are so named because they use a crystal structure similar to that found in the mineral known as perovskite. When compared to traditional solar cells made of silicon, perovskite cells are greener and more cost efficient to produce. They have been the subject of intense interest among materials scientists, who have been successfully working in recent years to increase their efficiency for converting sunlight to electricity.
Xu and his research team have been working on clean and effective ways to push perovskite photovoltaic materials toward their best performance. Organic-inorganic hybrid perovskites materials have exhibited stunning photovoltaic efficiency. But before these hybrid materials can be commercialized, researchers must overcome some key challenges, including chemical instability and the use of toxic lead in current state-of-the-art hybrid perovskite materials.
The new project, which will include collaboration with scientists at Argonne National Laboratory, aims to minimize toxicity and learn how the introduction of small amounts of impurities could help regulate chemical instability at the atomic level.
Xu’s team currently includes several graduate students, and he will recruit two to three undergraduates each year to be involved in the research.
“This NSF-funded project will enable NIU students to explore innovative ways that can drastically stabilize the perovskite materials and minimize the use of toxic lead,” Xu says. “The research skill set, the problem-solving methodology and the teamwork will provide students with invaluable experiences that will benefit their future career development.”
And, as an added bonus, the work could ultimately benefit the world’s environment.
Northern Illinois University is a student-centered, nationally recognized public research university, with expertise that benefits its region and spans the globe in a wide variety of fields, including the sciences, humanities, arts, business, engineering, education, health and law. Through its main campus in DeKalb, Illinois, and education centers for students and working professionals in Chicago, Hoffman Estates, Naperville, Oregon and Rockford, NIU offers more than 100 courses of study while serving a diverse and international student body.
Media Contact: Tom Parisi