Synthesis cost dictates the commercial viability of lead sulfide and perovskite quantum dot photovoltaics

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Energy & Environmental Science (2018)



Any new solar photovoltaic (PV) technology must reach low production costs to compete with today's market-leading crystalline silicon and commercial thin-film PV technologies. Colloidal quantum dots (QDs) could open up new applications by enabling lightweight and flexible PV modules. However, the cost of synthesizing nanocrystals at the large scale needed for PV module production has not previously been investigated. Based on our experience with commercial QD scale-up, we develop a Monte Carlo model to analyze the cost of synthesizing lead sulfide and metal halide perovskite QDs using 8 different reported synthetic methods. We also analyze the cost of solution-phase ligand exchange for preparing deposition-ready PbS QD inks, as well as the manufacturing cost for roll-to-roll solution-processed PV modules using these materials. We find that present QD synthesis costs are prohibitively high for PV applications, with median costs of 11 to 59 $ per g for PbS QDs (0.15 to 0.84 $ per W for a 20% efficient cell) and 73 $ per g for CsPbI3 QDs (0.74 $ per W). QD ink preparation adds 6.3 $ per g (0.09 $ per W). In total, QD materials contribute up to 55% of the total module cost, making even roll-to-roll-processed QDPV modules significantly more expensive than silicon PV modules. These results suggest that the development of new low-cost synthetic methods is critically important for the commercial relevance of QD photovoltaics. Using our cost model, we identify strategies for reducing synthetic cost and propose a cost target of 5 $ per g to move QD solar cells closer to commercial viability.