Perspective on Solar Energy Materials, Design and Discovery, Defects, Disorder, and Interfaces

Research output: NRELPresentation


The energy transition still faces a daunting math. Currently, more than three quarters of final energy consumption occurs in form of fuels vs less than one quarter in electricity. On the other hand, renewable energy additions come almost exclusively in the form of electricity (dominantly photovoltaics and wind). Thus, meeting the terawatt challenge requires enormous growth in renewables, sufficient to convert excess electricity into fuels, as well as the development of non-electricity based solar fuel technologies, for example via solar thermochemical routes. In this presentation, we will review successes and challenges in photovoltaic materials from silicon to CdTe to halide perovskites and potential emerging materials, with a particular perspective on the role of first principles calculations and predictions. Materials design and discovery is evolving to incorporate defects, disorder, and interfaces. These phenomena play also an important role in the thermochemical generation of hydrogen, allowing to utilize synergies between renewable electricity and fuels in computational research. At the same time, machine learning approaches are increasingly geared toward properties of non-ideal materials, for example defect formation, allowing the screening for more complex material behavior as needed for the respective applications.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages19
StatePublished - 2023

Publication series

NamePresented at the APS March Meeting, 5-10 March 2023, Las Vegas, Nevada

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/PR-5K00-85513


  • fuels
  • hydrogen
  • photovoltaics
  • silicon
  • solar thermochemical


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