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Solar Cell by Day, Light Panel by Night

SINGAPORE, March 25, 2014 — A chance discovery has brought light emission properties to solar cells.

A new solar cell material developed by a team at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) not only converts light to electricity, but also emits light.

The hybrid perovskite solar cell material was discovered to glow brightly and emit light when a laser is shined on it.


Perovskite solar cells have been discovered to have light-emitting properties. Courtesy of Nanyang Technological University.

"What we have discovered is that because 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 Tze Chien, an assistant professor with NTU's School of Physical and Mathematical Sciences. "By tuning the composition of the material, we can make it emit a wide range of colors, which also makes it suitable as a light-emitting device, such as flat screen displays."

This finding is significant, according to the researchers, as most solar cell materials cannot generate light. In the future, the highly luminescent material could be suitable for making lasers as well as touch-screen and display devices.

Less expensive than current silicon-based solar cells, the patent-pending material potentially could recharge mobile phones, tablets and other such devices by absorbing sunlight.

"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,” said Nripan Mathews of NTU’s School of Materials Science and Engineering. “More significantly, the ability of this material to lase has implications for on-chip electronic devices that source, detect and control light."

The work was funded by NTU and the National Research Foundation Prime Minister's office in Singapore. The research was published in Nature Materials. (doi:10.1038/nmat3911)

For more information, visit: www.ntu.edu.sg.


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