• A study by Penn University led research team mixed bR protein as a biological material to perovskite solar cells
  • Another addition was the application of FRET mechanism to encourage energy transfer
  • The researchers claim the lab experiment led to higher efficiency for the cells from 14.5% to 17%
  • Scientists believe the results may have larger consequences as this may lead to the design of other hybrid devices in which artificial and biological materials work together

Biological materials when added to perovskite solar cells can lead to higher efficiency, researchers led by Penn State University found out in experiments. Within the laboratory setting, the team was able to improve efficiency of perovskite solar cells from 14.5% to 17% when bacteriorhodopsin (bR) protein was added to these.

The team calls the results very significant since the experiment shows the potential biological materials hold when added to perovskite solar cells. Further research can lead to better efficiency for bioperovskite materials.

They also applied what is called as the Förster Resonance Energy Transfer (FRET) for energy transfer between a pair of photosensitive molecules. Renugopalakrishnan Venkatesan, Professor at Northeastern University and Boston Children’s Hospital, Harvard University and co-author of the study, said that FRET is the basis of photosynthesis that spurs a wireless communication mechanism. “We are using this mechanism to try to create a world of bio-inspired systems that have the potential to surpass either inorganic or organic molecules,” explained Venkatesan.

The team mixed the bR protein into perovskite solar cells that aided electron-hole pairs better move through the devices, thereby reducing recombination losses and boosting efficiency.

As per the team, these findings that have found their way into the American Chemical Society’s journal of ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces, may have larger consequences as these may lead to the design of other hybrid devices in which artificial and biological materials work together.

“These findings open the door for the development of a cheaper, more environmentally friendly bioperovskite solar cell technology,” said Shashank Priya, associate vice president for research and professor of materials science at Penn State. “In the future, we may essentially replace some expensive chemicals inside solar cells with relatively cheaper natural materials.”

The research paper is available for free viewing on ACS’ website.