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Flexible quasi-2D perovskite solar cells with high specific power and improved stability for energy-autonomous drones


Perovskite solar cells are a promising technology for emerging photovoltaic applications that require mechanical compliance and high specific power. However, the devices suffer from poor operational stability. Here we develop lightweight, thin (<2.5 μm), flexible and transparent-conductive-oxide-free quasi-two-dimensional perovskite solar cells by incorporating alpha-methylbenzyl ammonium iodide into the photoactive perovskite layer. We fabricate the devices directly on an ultrathin polymer foil coated with an alumina barrier layer to ensure environmental and mechanical stability without compromising weight and flexibility. We demonstrate a champion specific power of 44 W g−1 (average: 41 W g1), an open-circuit voltage of 1.15 V and a champion efficiency of 20.1% (average: 18.1%). To show scalability, we fabricate a photovoltaic module consisting of 24 interconnected 1 cm2 solar cells and demonstrate energy-autonomous operation of a hybrid solar-powered quadcopter, while constituting only 1/400 of the drone’s weight. Our performance and stability demonstration of ultra-lightweight perovskite solar cells highlight their potential as portable and cost-effective sustainable energy harvesting devices.

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Fig. 1: Performance of ultra-lightweight quasi-2D flexible perovskite solar cells.
Fig. 2: Material characterization of the quasi-2D perovskite photoactive layer.
Fig. 3: Performance and stability of MBA2(Cs0.12MA0.88)6Pb7I22 PSCs.
Fig. 4: Design and characterization of the hybrid-power Solar Hopper quadcopter.

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Data availability

The authors declare that the data supporting the findings of this study are available within the paper and its Supplementary Information files. Should any raw data files be needed in another format, they are available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request. Source data are provided with this paper.

Code availability

Any of the custom code used for recording and evaluating the data is available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request.


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This project was supported by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement number 101016411 ‘Soft Milli-robots-SOMIRO’ and European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grant ‘GEL-SYS’ under grant agreement number 757931 to M.K. Financial support was also provided by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement number 871130 (Ascent + ), the Linz Institute of Technology (LIT) and the LIT Secure and Correct Systems Lab, supported by the State of Upper Austria to A.R. We sincerely thank C. Wolff and M. Othman of the Photovoltaics-Laboratory (PV-Lab) from École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) for their invaluable assistance in validating our solar cells in their laboratory.

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Authors and Affiliations



B.H., S.D., C.P. and M.K. conceptualized the study. B.H., S.D. and C.P. led the experiments and collected the overall data. B.H., S.D., C.P., L.E.L., F.M., M.C., M.C.S., D.Z. and T.M.K. prepared and characterized the perovskite samples. B.H., S.D., C.P. and L.E.L. designed, fabricated and characterized the solar cells and solar module. B.H., S.D., C.P., L.E.L., D.S. and R.P. designed, assembled and characterized the Solar Hopper and performed flight demonstrations. B.H., S.D., C.P., L.E.L. and M.K. co-wrote the manuscript. All authors analysed the data and provided feedback. M.C.S., N.S.S., A.R. and M.K. supervised the research activities.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Martin Kaltenbrunner.

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Extended data

Extended Data Fig. 1 Electroluminescence quantum efficiency (ELQE).

a, Normalized electroluminescence (EL) spectra and b, the measured electroluminescence quantum efficiency (ELQE) values at different injection currents. The star indicates solar cell operating conditions, where the injection current equals the short-circuit current density under 1 sun illumination. c-f, Normalized measured (meas) and calculated (calc) EL photon flux and external quantum efficiency (EQE) for c, MAPbI3, d, Cs0.12MA0.88PbI3, e, MBA2MA6Pb7I22, f, MBA2(Cs0.12MA0.88)6Pb7I22 used for the calculation of the radiative limit of the open-circuit voltage \({{\rm{V}}}_{{\rm{OC}}}^{{\rm{rad}}}\) following the procedure described in Supplementary Note 2. The convergence between the measured and calculated EQE and EL curves signifies a robust reciprocal relationship between the two. An Urbach tail fit was applied to the low energy part of the measured EQE below ~10-2 quantum efficiency, resulting in the derived \({{EQE}}_{{\rm{PV}}}^{{\rm{fit}}}\) fit, capturing the exponential decay accurately. The respective Urbach energies as well as calculated open-circuit voltages are indicated in the plot.

Extended Data Fig. 2 Intensity-modulated photovoltage spectroscopy characteristics.

a, Reverse-scanned J-V curves (cell areas 0.1 cm2, grey dashed lines serve as guides to the eye), and IMVS characteristics in b, Nyquist plots of devices based on different perovskite compositions, scanned in the frequency range of 1 MHz to 20 mHz with 10 % light intensity modulation amplitude under 50 mW cm-2 LED light intensity. c, VOC, and d, the charge carrier recombination time constant (τIMVS) as a function of irradiance extracted from IMVS measurements.

Extended Data Fig. 3 Rolling test of ultra-lightweight PSCs.

a, Photos showing successive wrapping of solar cells around a copper rod with a 0.1 mm radius, demonstrating excellent bending flexibility. Scale bar, 1 cm. b, reverse-scanned J-V curves of ultra-lightweight PSCs obtained before and after 100 rolling cycles (cell area 0.1 cm2) with an initial PCE of 16.9 % for Au and 15.6 % for Al top contact (grey dashed lines serve as guides to the eye). Normalized PV properties c, VOC, d, JSC, and e, FF of ultra-lightweight PSCs as a function of rolling cycles. Lines connecting data points are guides to the eye.

Extended Data Fig. 4 Compression tests of ultra-lightweight PSCs.

a, Photograph of custom-built compression and relaxation set-up. Scale bar, 2 cm. The ultra-lightweight PSC coated with polyurethane is attached to a VHB elastomer as shown. The device was attached to the elastomer on the PET side and the top contacts were covered with polyurethane facing up. In our set-up, a single 1-inch solar cell contains 6 individual solar cell pixels that are connected to thin copper wires with conducting silver adhesive. Thick polyimide tape is used as a rigid delimiter, defining an active stretching area of ~ 4 cm width, and 2.5 cm length. b, Images of ultra-lightweight PSCs attached to pre-stretched elastomer under sequential uniaxial compression and relaxation cycles. Scale bar, 1 cm. c, reverse-scanned J-V curves (cell area 0.1 cm2, grey dashed lines serve as guides to the eye) and d-g, normalized device parameters (initial PCE 13.8 %) (VOC, JSC, FF, and PCE, respectively) at 0, 5, 10, 20, 30, 40, and 50 % of compression. h-j, Normalized VOC, JSC, and FF of ultra-lightweight PSCs measured after repeated compression and relaxation cycles to 30 %. The device VOC and FF remain unchanged (100 %), while the JSC exhibits about 8 % loss after 100 compression cycles. Curves drawn on top of data points are guides to the eye.

Extended Data Fig. 5 Solar-rechargeable hybrid-power nano-UAV.

a, Schematics illustration and b, photo of a Solar Hopper quadcopter with an ultra-lightweight solar energy harvesting module unit, battery, and power management integrated circuit (PMIC). c, Weight breakdown of framed, interconnected, and packaged ultra-lightweight PSC. d, Weight breakdown of Solar Hopper drone.

Extended Data Fig. 6 Extended flight of the Solar Hopper with take-off and landing on rough terrain.

The Supplementary Video 2 demonstrates the extended flight of the Solar Hopper for about 45 s. The drone a, takes off from the dry ground and b-e, flies on an arbitrary flight trajectory, f, then successfully lands on a rough and uneven landing place.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Methods, Notes 1–3, Figs. 1–32 and Tables 1–19.

Reporting Summary

Supplementary Video 1

Hopping flight of the quadcopter powered by ultra-lightweight perovskite photovoltaic module. The Solar Hopper quadcopter drone equipped with the ultra-lightweight perovskite photovoltaic module performing a short unidirectional flight between two points on a grassy meadow. The quadcopter successfully covers a distance of about 20 m between its take-off and landing zone on a parabolic flight trajectory. The drone is highlighted by an arrow due to the low resolution of the camera at a distance.

Supplementary Video 2

Extended flight of the Solar Hopper with take-off and landing on rough terrain. Extended flight of the Solar Hopper for about 45 s. The drone takes off from the dry ground and flies on an arbitrary flight trajectory, then successfully lands on a rough and uneven landing place.

Supplementary Video 3

Charging and discharging test of the Solar Hopper. Charging and discharging cycle of the Solar Hopper inside a custom-built benchtop flying cage placed under a solar simulator (1-Sun AM 1.5, Xe lamp) in ambient conditions. Cyclic hovering was performed to estimate the endurance of the energy harvesting module and SOC of the battery. First, the mini-quadcopter battery was fully charged using its ultra-lightweight energy harvesting module. Then, the Solar Hopper battery was discharged by hovering at half throttle for 10 s, which was followed by recharging for 30 min.

Supplementary Data 1

Statistical source data for Supplementary Fig. 4.

Supplementary Data 2

Statistical source data for Supplementary Fig. 5.

Supplementary Data 3

Statistical source data for Supplementary Fig. 6.

Supplementary Data 4

Statistical source data for Supplementary Fig. 7.

Supplementary Data 5

Statistical source data for Supplementary Fig. 8.

Supplementary Data 6

Statistical source data for Supplementary Fig. 9.

Supplementary Data 7

Statistical source data for Supplementary Fig. 10.

Supplementary Data 8

Statistical source data for Supplementary Fig. 11.

Supplementary Data 9

Statistical source data for Supplementary Fig. 14.

Supplementary Data 10

Statistical source data for Supplementary Fig. 17.

Supplementary Data 11

Statistical source data for Supplementary Fig. 18.

Supplementary Data 12

Statistical source data for Supplementary Table 2.

Supplementary Data 13

Statistical source data for Supplementary Table 3.

Supplementary Data 14

Statistical source data for Supplementary Table 4.

Supplementary Data 15

Statistical source data for Supplementary Table 7.

Supplementary Data 16

Statistical source data for Supplementary Table 10.

Supplementary Data 17

Statistical source data for Supplementary Table 12.

Supplementary Data 18

Statistical source data for Supplementary Table 13.

Source data

Source Data Fig. 3

Statistical source data.

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Hailegnaw, B., Demchyshyn, S., Putz, C. et al. Flexible quasi-2D perovskite solar cells with high specific power and improved stability for energy-autonomous drones. Nat Energy (2024).

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