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Aug 17, 2022

Volume 6Issue 8p1727-1964
On the cover: Subdividing cells through an extra laser scribing step provides a simple but generic approach to better protecting thinfilms like perovskites from reverse bias effects, such as that due to shading of a fallen leaf. Image credit: Dongchen Lan and Martin Green....
On the cover: Subdividing cells through an extra laser scribing step provides a simple but generic approach to better protecting thinfilms like perovskites from reverse bias effects, such as that due to shading of a fallen leaf. Image credit: Dongchen Lan and Martin Green.


  • Challenges in temperature measurements in gas-phase photothermal catalysis

    • Luca Mascaretti,
    • Andrea Schirato,
    • Tiziano Montini,
    • Alessandro Alabastri,
    • Alberto Naldoni,
    • Paolo Fornasiero
    This work discusses the challenges of reliably measuring the sample surface temperature in gas-phase photothermal catalysis experiments. The effects of experimental conditions (such as gas flux and composition) and instrumentation (focusing on non-contact infrared imaging techniques) are investigated. These concerns should be considered to unequivocally identify the mechanisms underlying the reaction of interest.
  • Toward practical aqueous zinc-ion batteries for electrochemical energy storage

    • Chang Li,
    • Shuo Jin,
    • Lynden A. Archer,
    • Linda F. Nazar
    Aqueous zinc-ion batteries (ZIBs) based on electrolytes at close-to-neutral pH have attracted wide attention owing to their high sustainability and affordability. However, their commercialization is plagued by several major obstacles remaining that are unfortunately obfuscated by reports highlighting high C-rate but low-capacity performance that do not mirror the requirements for real-world aqueous ZIBs. This commentary aims to bridge the gap between academic trials and practical requirements, highlighting approaches for addressing these significant challenges and encouraging innovations that can accelerate progress toward practical ZIBs.
  • Surging lithium price will not impede the electric vehicle boom

    • Xin Sun,
    • Minggao Ouyang,
    • Han Hao
    The current 10-fold price spike of lithium gives the electric vehicle market a sharp short-term shock. Our analysis indicates that it will not hinder transportation electrification in the long run. Despite tight supply and high-point price fluctuation of lithium, the electric vehicle market is expected to maintain steady growth for the next few years. Lithium price is likely to fall back to its pre-surge level by around 2025. Five recommendations are proposed to suppress potential recurrence of large-scale market volatility.

Future Energy

  • Imagining circular beyond lithium-ion batteries

    • Alexandra D. Easley,
    • Ting Ma,
    • Jodie L. Lutkenhaus
    Beyond-lithium-ion batteries offer chemistries that use earth-abundant materials, but the end-of-life for these batteries must be considered. This article highlights certain approaches and requirements for realizing a fully circular, degradable, or recyclable beyond-lithium battery. Special attention is given to transient batteries and organic batteries, along with comparisons to lithium-ion batteries. This Future Energy concludes with a circular methodological study guide.


  • Understanding Africa’s energy transition requires regional scenario analysis

    • Franklyn Kanyako,
    • Erin Baker
    Global energy transition will be significant to Africa’s economic development but will not be uniform across the continent. There is a need for subcontinental analysis of energy futures to identify and evaluate alternatives. In a recent issue of Joule, Chowdhury et al. performed an important examination of Southern Africa’s diverse energy futures.
  • Surface-reconstruction of NiOx nanocrystals makes a breakthrough in flexible solar cells

    • Hong Zhang,
    • Wallace C.H. Choy
    Lightweight flexible perovskite solar cells are promising for building-/vehicle-integrated photovoltaics, wearable electronics, and aerospace applications. Recently in Nature Energy, Li et al. reconstruct the surface properties of low-temperature processed NiOx nanocrystal film by tailoring a self-assembled monolayer. A record power conversion efficiency of 24.4% (certified) was achieved in flexible solar cells using an all-perovskite tandem structure.


  • Scaling up high-energy-density sulfidic solid-state batteries: A lab-to-pilot perspective

    • Darren H.S. Tan,
    • Ying Shirley Meng,
    • Jihyun Jang
    This perspective discusses state-of-the-art research and developments in scalability and manufacturability that cover a broad range of topics ranging from solid eletrolyte material synthesis, dry electrode and separator processability, as well as pouch-cell prototyping for all solid-state batteries that the broader community frequently engages in. Thus, we believe the topics discussed here will have broad appeal to the readers of Joule.
  • Identifying soft breakdown in all-solid-state lithium battery

    • Changhong Wang,
    • Tao Deng,
    • Xiulin Fan,
    • Matthew Zheng,
    • Ruizhi Yu,
    • Qingwen Lu,
    • Hui Duan,
    • Huan Huang,
    • Chunsheng Wang,
    • Xueliang Sun
    Soft breakdown hidden in ASSLBs has been overlooked in most previous research. Here, we propose a simple but effective strategy—cyclic voltammetry—to diagnose soft breakdown in all-solid-state batteries. Moreover, low-frequency electrochemical impedance spectroscopy is employed to quantify the soft breakdown. With this understanding, we establish a standard testing protocol, which could be used to unify future research endeavors if adopted. This work provides new insights into ASSLBs and establishes assessment metrics for this community.
  • Combatting temperature and reverse-bias challenges facing perovskite solar cells

    • Dongchen Lan,
    • Martin A. Green
    Perovskite solar cells are likely to suffer more severe consequences than silicon cells when they become reverse biased such as due to partial shading. Resolution of the reverse-bias effect is critical to the large-scale application of these perovskites. Innovative approaches may be required since the intrinsic stabilities of these perovskites are unlikely ever to match silicon, posing additional challenges.


  • Electric-/magnetic-field-assisted photocatalysis: Mechanisms and design strategies

    • Zihan Wang,
    • Yiyang Li,
    • Chen Wu,
    • Shik Chi Edman Tsang
    Photocatalysis as a promising approach for solar energy conversion has attracted enormous attention in recent decades with various chemical reactions involved. Herein, recent advances in the electric-/magnetic-field-assisted photocatalysis have been reviewed. The effects on the fundamental photocatalytic steps have been illustrated with the underlying mechanisms revealed. This review especially focuses on the rational design of catalytic systems with catalyst-support interactions, aiming to strengthen the local fields. Potential strategies and challenges for the future study have been discussed.


    Featured Article
  • Enabling a low-carbon electricity system for Southern Africa

    • A.F.M. Kamal Chowdhury,
    • Ranjit Deshmukh,
    • Grace C. Wu,
    • Anagha Uppal,
    • Ana Mileva,
    • Tiana Curry,
    • Les Armstrong,
    • Stefano Galelli,
    • Kudakwashe Ndhlukula
    Electricity demand in the 12 countries of Southern Africa is projected to double by 2040. The challenge is to meet this growing demand while limiting GHG emissions. Current regional electricity plans emphasize the development of new coal and hydropower, despite the rapidly declining costs of wind and solar technologies. Using a detailed electricity planning model, we find that wind- and solar-dominated systems are actually more cost competitive than fossil fuel- or hydro-dominated ones, meeting demand growth without increasing GHG emissions.
  • Lignin-first biorefining of Nordic poplar to produce cellulose fibers could displace cotton production on agricultural lands

    • Anneli Adler,
    • Ivan Kumaniaev,
    • Almir Karacic,
    • Kiran Reddy Baddigam,
    • Rebecca J. Hanes,
    • Elena Subbotina,
    • Andrew W. Bartling,
    • Alberto J. Huertas-Alonso,
    • Andres Moreno,
    • Helena Håkansson,
    • Aji P. Mathew,
    • Gregg T. Beckham,
    • Joseph S.M. Samec
    Open Access
    By crossing Populus trichocarpa × P. trichocarpa from a distant population, hybrid poplar trees were obtained that can grow rapidly on marginal lands in northern climates. These hybrids can be transformed by reductive catalytic fractionation to yield a delignified textile fiber that can be a substitute for cotton as well as a lignin-derived biofuel in the gasoline-aviation-diesel range. The sustainability of this value chain was evaluated by LCA and showed substantial benefits in terms of water use compared with cotton production.
  • Multi-pass flow-through reductive catalytic fractionation

    • Jun Hee Jang,
    • David G. Brandner,
    • Reagan J. Dreiling,
    • Arik J. Ringsby,
    • Jeremy R. Bussard,
    • Lisa M. Stanley,
    • Renee M. Happs,
    • Anjaneya S. Kovvali,
    • Joshua I. Cutler,
    • Tom Renders,
    • James R. Bielenberg,
    • Yuriy Román-Leshkov,
    • Gregg T. Beckham
    Lignin-first biorefining enables conversion of both lignin and carbohydrates to renewable fuels and chemicals, overcoming the limitations of traditional biorefineries that typically focus solely on polysaccharide valorization. However, a key challenge to enabling lignin-first biorefining at scale is high solvent usage. To that end, we introduce the concept of multi-pass flow-through lignin-first biorefining to minimize solvent usage without a detrimental effect on biorefining performance, with the aim to maximize the economic and environmental benefits of the process.
  • Ferroelectric polarization enabled spatially selective adsorption of redox mediators to promote Z-scheme photocatalytic overall water splitting

    • Yuyang Kang,
    • Haozhi Qi,
    • Gedeng Wan,
    • Chao Zhen,
    • Xiaoxiang Xu,
    • Li-Chang Yin,
    • Lianzhou Wang,
    • Gang Liu,
    • Hui-Ming Cheng
    The single-domain PbTiO3 has a built-in electric field to enable the spatial separation of the photocarriers and the selective adsorption of redox mediators on oppositely poled surfaces, i.e., electrons on the positively poled surface and cationic redox mediators on the negatively poled surface. This feature endows PbTiO3 as a promising water reduction photocatalyst in the Z-scheme system due to the suppression of mediator side reactions. This strategy could be applicable for designing much more efficient Z-scheme systems.
  • Nitrate-mediated four-electron oxygen reduction on metal oxides for lithium-oxygen batteries

    • Yun Guang Zhu,
    • Graham Leverick,
    • Livia Giordano,
    • Shuting Feng,
    • Yirui Zhang,
    • Yang Yu,
    • Ryoichi Tatara,
    • Jaclyn R. Lunger,
    • Yang Shao-Horn
    The apparent four-electron oxygen reduction to form Li2O in molten-salt Li–O2 batteries is enabled by the redox activity of NO3 ions in the molten salt, where NO3 is first reduced to NO2 and Li2O, following which NO2 can be chemically oxidized by O2 to reform NO3. The highest discharge voltages are observed with Ni-based electrodes, where NiO binds NO3 and NO2 neither too weakly nor too strongly.
  • Electrical edge effect induced photocurrent overestimation in low-light organic photovoltaics

    • Xiaobo Zhou,
    • Chao Zhao,
    • Awwad Nasser Alotaibi,
    • Hongbo Wu,
    • Hafiz Bilal Naveed,
    • Baojun Lin,
    • Ke Zhou,
    • Zaifei Ma,
    • Brian A. Collins,
    • Wei Ma
    The short-circuit current (JSC) overestimation is a severe but common issue in low-light photovoltaic devices. This work demonstrated that the electrical edge effect, whether originated from conducting layer or interface doping, will lead to significant JSC and power-conversion efficiency overestimation of more than 100%. Furthermore, this work showed that large surface roughness leads to a stronger electrical edge effect through reduced smaller sheet resistance.
  • Aperiodic band-pass electrode enables record-performance transparent organic photovoltaics

    • Xin Liu,
    • Ziping Zhong,
    • Rihong Zhu,
    • Jiangsheng Yu,
    • Gang Li
    A superior aperiodic band-pass transparent electrode (Ag/ABPF, aperiodic [LiF/TeO2]8 /LiF) exhibits an average visible transmittance (AVT) of up to 78.69% and total reflection in the NIR region (700–900 nm). Relative to the counterparts without ABPF, transparent organic photovoltaics (TOPVs) with ABPF demonstrated ∼60% enhancement in AVT and light utilization efficiency (LUE), with improved power conversion efficiency (PCE) as well. As a result, the ABPF-integrated TOPVs demonstrate a record-breaking LUE of 5.35% with a CRI of 85.39.
  • Surface redox engineering of vacuum-deposited NiOx for top-performance perovskite solar cells and modules

    • Minyong Du,
    • Shuai Zhao,
    • Lianjie Duan,
    • Yuexian Cao,
    • Hui Wang,
    • Youming Sun,
    • Likun Wang,
    • Xuejie Zhu,
    • Jiangshan Feng,
    • Lu Liu,
    • Xiao Jiang,
    • Qingshun Dong,
    • Yantao Shi,
    • Kai Wang,
    • Shengzhong (Frank) Liu
    We propose a surface redox engineering (SRE) for NiOx films, which is achieved by subjecting the films to an Ar-plasma-initiated oxidation process and a Brønsted-acid-mediated reduction process. The multifunctional SRE can foster the formation of a stabilized surface state and increase the surface energy. The assembled rigid (flexible) PSCs delivered high PCEs of up to 23.4% (21.3%) with excellent stability. Furthermore, large-area (156 × 156 mm2) submodules are designed and integrated to yield PCE as high as 18.6%.
  • Performance optimization of monolithic all-perovskite tandem solar cells under standard and real-world solar spectra

    • Yuan Gao,
    • Renxing Lin,
    • Ke Xiao,
    • Xin Luo,
    • Jin Wen,
    • Xu Yue,
    • Hairen Tan
    Multijunction cell architectures show higher potential of power conversion efficiencies over single junctions due to the ability to split the solar spectrum into multiple bands that can be utilized by separate subcells. Two-terminal tandem solar cells, however, require “matched” subcells due to the series connection. We found that “current match” was not a necessary condition for the best performance under standard test conditions, whereas the optimal tandem configurations differed in real world due to solar spectra and angle of incidence.