April 25, 2019
Solar cells need their morning coffee, too!
The offhand comment led the team to recall that the caffeine in coffee is an alkaloid compound containing molecular structures that could interact with the precursors of perovskite materials—compounds with a particular crystal structure that form the light-harvesting layer in a class of solar cells. Previous attempts to improve the thermal stability of these solar cells have included enhancing the perovskite layer by introducing compounds such as dimethyl sulfoxide, but researchers have struggled to boost the cells' efficiency and long-term stability. No one had tried caffeine.
Realizing they might be onto something, the team set aside their coffee and began investigating further. They added caffeine to the perovskite layer of forty solar cells and used infrared spectroscopy (which uses infrared radiation to identify chemical compounds) to determine that the caffeine had successfully bonded with the material.
You guessed it; it worked. In fact, caffeinated solar cells may compete favorably with the traditional silicon ones. But as of now this only works with the perovskite cells, to help them achieve higher crystallinity and smooth out imperfections. But the research is ongoing.
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