Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin has gained a new Helmholtz Young Investigator Group to boost its energy materials research.

Dr. Antonio Abate from the University of Fribourg, Switzerland, is putting together a Helmholtz Young Investigator Group at Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin.

Dr. Antonio Abate from the University of Fribourg, Switzerland, is putting together a Helmholtz Young Investigator Group at Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin.

The new group is working to prolong the life span of perovskite solar cells to 25 years and longer.

Dr. Antonio Abate from the University of Fribourg, Switzerland, is putting together a Helmholtz Young Investigator Group at Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin. He came out on top in a highly competitive selection process of the Helmholtz Association and will now receive 300,000 euros per year in funding over a period of five years. Dr. Antonio Abate will be studying the materials and interfaces of perovskite solar cells in order to improve their long-term stability.

“We are extremely delighted to have recruited this excellent scientist, Dr. Antonio Abate, for HZB. His work ideally complements the projects already running at HZB within the Helmholtz Renewable Energies programme. HZB offers Mr. Abate an excellent scientific environment with state of the art material synthesis facilities and latest analytical tools at the synchrotron source BESSY II,” says the scientific director of HZB, Prof. Dr. Anke Kaysser-Pyzalla.

Prof. Dr. Bernd Rech, spokesperson for the Renewable Energies programme, adds: "Perovskite solar cells are one of the most promising material classes to be discovered in the last few years. HZB is already working actively in this field. We are very pleased to have the reinforcement of Antonio Abate and the new group he is putting together. This will help us to achieve rapid results in the field.”

Originally from Italy, Antonio Abate researched, among other places, at the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge in England. He then received a Marie-Skłodowska-Curie grant to work at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland. He currently heads the photovoltaic activities at the Adolphe Merkle Institute of the University of Fribourg, Switzerland.

Aims of the Young Investigator Group “Active Materials and Interfaces for Stable Perovskite Solar Cells”

The photovoltaics industry has always been dominated by silicon-based solar cells. Originally expensive to make, production costs steadily dropped over time to the point where, now, there are practically no savings potentials left in the manufacturing processes for this technology. Accordingly, we need a new generation of cheap and efficient solar cells. Perovskite solar cells are especially promising. Their efficiency has increased very rapidly in recent years. The long-term stability of these cells is crucial for their economic viability, and yet this criterion is still barely studied. Antonio Abate’s goal is now to develop stable perovskite solar cells with an operating life exceeding 25 years.

To achieve this goal, the researcher wants to improve our understanding of the optoelectronic mechanisms responsible for the degradation of material inside perovskite solar cells. He will be researching both the fundamental principles and the processing of these solar cells in order to actively control the interfaces between the various layers.

Antonio Abate is looking to cooperate with internationally leading research groups and industrial partners from the electronics industry to ensure the development of this technology is genuinely promoted – from materials and components to full PV systems. His work should furthermore create a knowledge base for researching into other electronic and electrical applications, such as LEDs, photodetectors and transistors.

About the “Helmholtz Young Investigators” programme

The research programme fosters highly qualified young researchers who completed their doctorate three to six years ago. The heads of the Young Investigator Groups receive support through a tailored training and mentoring programme and are assured long-term prospects at HZB. One aim of the programme is to strengthen the networking of Helmholtz centres and universities. The costs of the programme – 300,000 euros per year per group over five years – are covered half by the Helmholtz President’s Initiative and Networking Fund, and half by the Helmholtz centres.

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