Flinders University researchers exploring potentials of phosphorene in solar technologies

A new nanomaterial made from phosphorus, known as phosphorene, is shaping up as a key ingredient for more sustainable and efficient next-generation perovskite solar cells (PSCs).

PSCs are one of the fastest developing new solar technologies and can achieve efficiencies comparable to more commonly used commercially available silicon solar cells.

For the first time, an international team of clean chemistry researchers, led by Professor Joseph Shapter and Flinders University, has made very thin phosphorene nanosheets for low-temperature PSCs using the rapid shear stress of the University’s vortex fluidic device (VFD).

“Silicon is currently the standard for rooftop solar, and other solar panels, but they take a lot of energy to produce them. They are not as sustainable as these newer options,” said adjunct Professor Joe Shapter, who is now at the University of Queensland.

“Phosphorene is an exciting material because it is a good conductor that will absorb visible light. In the past most non-metallic materials would have one property but not both.”

Dr Christopher Gibson, from the College of Science and Engineering at Flinders University, said the team had found an exciting new way to convert exfoliated black phosphorus into phosphorene that can help produce more efficient and also potentially cheaper solar cells.

“Our latest experiments have improved the potential of phosphene in solar cells, showing an extra efficiency of 2%-3% in electricity production,” Gibson said.

Research into making high quality 2D phosphorene in large quantities – along with other future materials such as graphene – is paving the way to more efficient and sustainable production with the use of the SA-made VFD, near-infrared laser light pulses, and an industrial-scale microwave oven.

According to the research team, the work with phosphorene is exploring the addition of different atoms to the matrix and is showing promising results in catalysis, particularly in the area of water splitting to produce hydrogen and oxygen.

With the ability to artificially produce perovskite structures, commercial viability may follow once the cells can be successfully scaled up. Meanwhile, research around the world continues to look for ways to improve and optimise perovskite cell performance.