Additive to perovskite crystal could help solar cells last a lot longer

3 Jul 2020

Image: © tantawat/

This week in future tech, researchers have uncovered potential benefits for solar cells from a crystal structure discovered centuries ago.

A type of crystal structure could hold enormous promise for a solar cell revolution, according to a new discovery published to Science. Researchers from Oregon State University (OSU) and the University of Oxford were working with this type of structure, commonly known as perovskite, which was first discovered in the Ural Mountains back in 1839.

While interest in its use for solar cells ramped up in 2009 after it was discovered that some perovskites are efficient absorbers of light, this latest discovery showed that a molecular additive – a salt based on the organic compound piperidine – greatly improves the longevity of perovskite solar cells.

“Teaming up with the University of Oxford, we demonstrated that light-induced instability occurs over many hours, even in the absence of electrical contact,” said John Labram of OSU. “The findings help clarify similar results observed in solar cells and hold the key to improving the stability and commercial viability of perovskite solar cells.”

Semi-transparent, perovskite films may also one day be used on windows or in greenhouses, converting part of the incoming sunlight to electricity while letting the rest pass through.

Adding nanomaterials to carbon fibre makes excellent fins

A collaboration between two Greek companies – Alchemy and Adamant Composites – working through a European Space Agency (ESA) project has resulted in diving fins that are significantly stronger than what has been available until now.

“Cheap fins for swimming close to the beach are made from rubber or plastic,” said Dimitrios Pantazis of underwater equipment specialist Alchemy.

“High-end fins for spearfishing or free-diving are made from tough carbon fibre composite, but these can be damaged in some circumstances, such as by hitting rocks or coral, or else accidentally impacted as people travel to dive sites. Such damage can go on to propagate cracks, and when you kick really hard your fin might break – which is the last thing you want when you’re deep underwater.”

Working with the space-tech company Adamant Composites, they showed that the addition of carbon nanomaterials to carbon fibre resulted in tougher, more resilient fins.

Thanos Baltopoulos of Adamant Composites added: “Like a painter mixing colours to create the shade specific for their painting, we try to match the nanomaterials to produce made-to-measure composite materials for end users.”

Electrode discovery ‘brings us one step closer to smart clothing’

Researchers from the University of Oulu in Finland with their partners from VTT Research Centre and Polar Electro have developed a new system of electrodes that can be integrated into clothing and withstand daily wear.

Publishing their findings in NPJ Flexible Electronics, the researchers said this provides insights into novel methods of fabrication of inexpensive and reliable electrodes that are essential for smart clothing.

“This work brings us one step closer to smart clothing ubiquity, where our apparel, in addition to monitoring our health and surrounding environment, will be changing its appearance and properties accordingly to our wishes,” said adjunct professor Rafal Sliz, who led the study.

Furthermore, the researchers said the electrodes will allow for the creation of sustainable smart clothing, where environmentally friendly and biodegradable materials can replace plastics and harmful substances.

Boeing tests core of NASA rocket taking astronauts to the moon

Boeing has tested the core stage of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket that will eventually take humans back to the surface of the moon. The company is building the rocket for NASA and, according to, has tested it as part of a “green run” that began back in January of this year.

This series of tests will culminate with a hot-fire test where the rocket will be activated as if it were taking a payload to space, except it will be kept securely tied down. Mark Nappi, Boeing’s green-run director, said the latest testing has been “very rewarding”.

“It’s the first time that this test has been run. This is a first-of-its-kind type of rocket, the world’s largest, most powerful rocket ever built,” he said.

Next year, the SLS core is set to take flight on an uncrewed visit to the moon as part of the Artemis programme, which will eventually land humans on the moon in 2024.

John Cipolletti, Nappi’s deputy on green-run testing, said: “It is truly a huge, a huge rocket and very impressive in its capability and its size. To be a part of setting something up that’s in the future going to get people to Mars is just a wonderful experience.”

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Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic