Menlo Park, Calif. — In recent years, perovskites have taken the solar cell industry by storm. They are cheap, easy to produce and very flexible in their applications. Their efficiency at converting light into electricity has grown faster than that of any other material — from under four percent in 2009 to over 20 percent in 2017 — and some experts believe that perovskites could eventually outperform the most common solar cell material, silicon. But despite their popularity, researchers don’t know why perovskites are so efficient.

Now experiments with a powerful “electron camera” at the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory have discovered that light whirls atoms around in perovskites, potentially explaining the high efficiency of

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