Mitzi Awarded SunShot Initiative Funding to Improve Thin-Film Solar Cell Materials

October 23, 2014

David Mitzi, a professor of mechanical engineering and materials science at Duke University, has been awarded a four-year, $1.3 million cooperative award from the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative. The award will fund a collaborative research project with Yanfa Yan, professor of physics at the University of Toledo, on solar cells based on hybrid perovskites—a combination of organic and inorganic materials and functionalities within a specific crystalline structure. The goal is to raise the amount of energy this emerging class of thin-film solar cell materials can generate per dollar spent to produce them.

Specifically, the project will seek to demonstrate power conversion efficiency at levels above 20 percent, mostly or completely replace the heavy metal lead currently used in the materials with environmentally benign alternatives, and improve how the materials respond to moisture, air and temperatures in the field. If successful on all three fronts, the low-cost methods available to make solar cells with these materials should enable a disruptive solar technology that ultimately successfully competes with entrenched technologies on both performance and cost.

The U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative is a collaborative national effort that aggressively drives innovation to make solar energy fully cost-competitive with traditional energy sources before the end of the decade. Through SunShot, the Energy Department supports efforts by private companies, universities, and national laboratories to drive down the cost of solar electricity to $0.06 per kilowatt-hour.  Learn more at