What is moving in hybrid halide perovskite solar cells?

Jarvist M. Frost, Aron Walsh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

373 Citations (SciVal)


Organic–inorganic semiconductors, which adopt the perovskite crystal structure, have perturbed the landscape of contemporary photovoltaics research. High-efficiency solar cells can be produced with solution-processed active layers. The materials are earth abundant, and the simple processing required suggests that high-throughput and low-cost manufacture at scale should be possible.
While these materials bear considerable similarity to traditional inorganic semiconductors, there are notable differences in their optoelectronic behavior. A key distinction of these materials is that they are physically soft, leading to considerable thermally activated motion.
In this Account, we discuss the internal motion of methylammonium lead iodide (CH3NH3PbI3) and formamidinium lead iodide ([CH(NH2)2]PbI3), covering: (i) molecular rotation-libration in the cuboctahedral cavity; (ii) drift and diffusion of large electron and hole polarons; (iii) transport of charged ionic defects. These processes give rise to a range of properties that are unconventional for photovoltaic materials, including frequency-dependent permittivity, low electron–hole recombination rates, and current–voltage hysteresis. Multiscale simulations, drawing from electronic structure, ab initio molecular dynamic and Monte Carlo computational techniques, have been combined with neutron diffraction measurements, quasi-elastic neutron scattering, and ultrafast vibrational spectroscopy to qualify the nature and time scales of the motions. Electron and hole motion occurs on a femtosecond time scale. Molecular libration is a sub-picosecond process. Molecular rotations occur with a time constant of several picoseconds depending on the cation. Recent experimental evidence and theoretical models for simultaneous electron and ion transport in these materials has been presented, suggesting they are mixed-mode conductors with similarities to fast-ion conducting metal oxide perovskites developed for battery and fuel cell applications. We expound on the implications of these effects for the photovoltaic action.
The temporal behavior displayed by hybrid perovskites introduces a sensitivity in materials characterization to the time and length scale of the measurement, as well as the history of each sample. It also poses significant challenges for accurate materials modeling and device simulations. There are large differences between the average and local crystal structures, and the nature of charge transport is too complex to be described by common one-dimensional drift-diffusion models. Herein, we critically discuss the atomistic origin of the dynamic processes and the associated chemical disorder intrinsic to crystalline hybrid perovskite semiconductors.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)528-535
JournalAccounts of Chemical Research
Issue number3
Early online date9 Feb 2016
Publication statusPublished - 15 Mar 2016


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