Reducing non-radiative recombination in semiconducting materials is a prerequisite for achieving the highest performance in light-emitting and photovoltaic applications. Here, we characterize both external and internal photoluminescence quantum efficiency and quasi-Fermi-level splitting of surface-treated hybrid perovskite (CH3NH3PbI3) thin films. With respect to the material bandgap, these passivated films exhibit the highest quasi-Fermi-level splitting measured to date, reaching 97.1 ± 0.7% of the radiative limit, approaching that of the highest performing GaAs solar cells. We confirm these values with independent measurements of internal photoluminescence quantum efficiency of 91.9 ± 2.7% under 1 Sun illumination intensity, setting a new benchmark for these materials. These results suggest hybrid perovskite solar cells are inherently capable of further increases in power conversion efficiency if surface passivation can be combined with optimized charge carrier selective interfaces.

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D.W.D. and D.S.G. acknowledge the US Department of Energy (DOE) (DE-SC0013957) for supporting the microscopy work. D.W.D. acknowledges support from an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship (DGE-1256082) and thanks L. Flagg for experimental help. I.L.B. and H.W.H. acknowledge financial support from the US DOE SunShot Initiative, Next Generation Photovoltaics 3 program, Award DE-EE0006710. Part of this work was conducted at the Molecular Analysis Facility and at the Washington Nanofabrication Facility, two National Nanotechnology Coordinated Infrastructure sites at the University of Washington, which are supported in part by the NSF (grant no. ECC-1542101), the University of Washington, the Molecular Engineering and Sciences Institute, the Clean Energy Institute and the National Institutes of Health. L.M.P.-O was supported by the Kavli Energy NanoScience Institute Heising-Simons Junior Fellowship of the University of California, Berkeley. The authors acknowledge F. Deschler for his helpful discussions.

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Author notes

  1. These authors contributed equally: Ian L. Braly, Dane W. deQuilettes.


  1. Department of Chemical Engineering, Clean Energy Institute, and Molecular Engineering & Sciences Institute, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA

    • Ian L. Braly
    •  & Hugh W. Hillhouse
  2. Department of Chemistry, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA

    • Dane W. deQuilettes
    • , Sven Burke
    • , Mark E. Ziffer
    •  & David S. Ginger
  3. Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences Department, University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA

    • Luis M. Pazos-Outón


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The project was conceived, planned and coordinated by D.W.D., I.L.B., H.W.H. and D.S.G. Samples were prepared by I.L.B., D.W.D. and S.B. Absolute-intensity photoluminescence spectra and fits were completed by I.L.B. Integrating sphere measurements were conducted by D.W.D. Intensity and temperature-dependent measurements were collected by I.L.B. and D.W.D. L.M.P.-O assisted in extracting the internal PLQE and calculating photovoltaic device metrics. M.E.Z. performed ellipsometry measurements and analysis. All authors assisted in the interpretation of results. D.W.D. and I.L.B wrote the manuscript, and all authors helped with editing.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to David S. Ginger or Hugh W. Hillhouse.

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