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Concept: Amorphous silicon


We describe the development of solar water-splitting cells comprising earth-abundant elements that operate in near-neutral pH conditions, both with and without connecting wires. The cells consist of a triple junction, amorphous silicon photovoltaic interfaced to hydrogen- and oxygen-evolving catalysts made from an alloy of earth-abundant metals and a cobalt|borate catalyst, respectively. The devices described here carry out the solar-driven water-splitting reaction at efficiencies of 4.7% for a wired configuration and 2.5% for a wireless configuration when illuminated with 1 sun (100 milliwatts per square centimeter) of air mass 1.5 simulated sunlight. Fuel-forming catalysts interfaced with light-harvesting semiconductors afford a pathway to direct solar-to-fuels conversion that captures many of the basic functional elements of a leaf.

Concepts: Ultraviolet, Chemical reaction, Sun, Hydrogen, Solid, Solar cell, Germanium, Amorphous silicon


Fabrication of thin-film solar cells (TFSCs) on substrates other than Si and glass has been challenging because these nonconventional substrates are not suitable for the current TFSC fabrication processes due to poor surface flatness and low tolerance to high temperature and chemical processing. Here, we report a new peel-and-stick process that circumvents these fabrication challenges by peeling off the fully fabricated TFSCs from the original Si wafer and attaching TFSCs to virtually any substrates regardless of materials, flatness and rigidness. With the peel-and-stick process, we integrated hydrogenated amorphous silicon (a-Si:H) TFSCs on paper, plastics, cell phone and building windows while maintaining the original 7.5% efficiency. The new peel-and-stick process enables further reduction of the cost and weight for TFSCs and endows TFSCs with flexibility and attachability for broader application areas. We believe that the peel-and-stick process can be applied to thin film electronics as well.

Concepts: Semiconductor, Silicon, Solar cell, Photovoltaics, Dye-sensitized solar cell, Thin film solar cell, Crystalline silicon, Amorphous silicon


In this article, we report only 10 atomic layer thick, high mobility, transparent thin film transistors (TFTs) with ambipolar device characteristics fabricated on both a conventional silicon platform as well as on a flexible substrate. Monolayer graphene was used as metal electrodes, 3-4 atomic layers of h-BN were used as the gate dielectric, and finally bilayers of WSe2 were used as the semiconducting channel material for the TFTs. The field effect carrier mobility was extracted to be 45 cm(2)/(V s), which exceeds the mobility values of state of the art amorphous silicon based TFTs by ∼100 times. The active device stack of WSe2-hBN-graphene was found to be more than 88% transparent over the entire visible spectrum and the device characteristics were unaltered for in-plane mechanical strain of up to 2%. The device demonstrated remarkable temperature stability over 77-400 K. Low contact resistance value of 1.4 kΩ-μm, subthreshold slope of 90 mv/decade, current ON-OFF ratio of 10(7), and presence of both electron and hole conduction were observed in our all two-dimensional (2D) TFTs, which are extremely desirable but rarely reported characteristics of most of the organic and inorganic TFTs. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first report of all 2D transparent TFT fabricated on flexible substrate along with the highest mobility and current ON-OFF ratio.

Concepts: Semiconductor, Silicon, Transistor, Field-effect transistor, Thin film, Thin-film transistor, Amorphous silicon, Thin films


We report on stacked high-contrast grating reflectors with virtually angular independent reflectance for transverse-magnetic polarized light. The investigated structure consists of two-layer pairs of amorphous silicon and silicondioxide that are designed for a wavelengths of 1550 nm. The large angular tolerance results from coupling of the two involved silicon gratings and is achieved if the modal fields in the reflectors are matched. With this approach, a reflectance of more than 96% in the entire angular spectrum is feasible. Experimentally we demonstrate a reflectance of more than 98% for incidence angles up to 60° and more than 90% up to 80°.

Concepts: Optics, Fundamental physics concepts, Light, Electromagnetic radiation, Wavelength, Polarization, Amorphous silicon, Diffraction grating


Recent advances in the use of organic-inorganic hybrid perovskites for optoelectronics have been rapid, with reported power conversion efficiencies of up to 22 per cent for perovskite solar cells. Improvements in stability have also enabled testing over a timescale of thousands of hours. However, large-scale deployment of such cells will also require the ability to produce large-area, uniformly high-quality perovskite films. A key challenge is to overcome the substantial reduction in power conversion efficiency when a small device is scaled up: a reduction from over 20 per cent to about 10 per cent is found when a common aperture area of about 0.1 square centimetres is increased to more than 25 square centimetres. Here we report a new deposition route for methyl ammonium lead halide perovskite films that does not rely on use of a common solvent or vacuum: rather, it relies on the rapid conversion of amine complex precursors to perovskite films, followed by a pressure application step. The deposited perovskite films were free of pin-holes and highly uniform. Importantly, the new deposition approach can be performed in air at low temperatures, facilitating fabrication of large-area perovskite devices. We reached a certified power conversion efficiency of 12.1 per cent with an aperture area of 36.1 square centimetres for a mesoporous TiO2-based perovskite solar module architecture.

Concepts: Nitrogen, Solar cell, Photovoltaics, Energy conversion, Energy conversion efficiency, Photovoltaic module, Amorphous silicon, Photovoltaic array


Solid silicon monoxide is an amorphous material which has been commercialized for many functional applications. However, the amorphous structure of silicon monoxide is a long-standing question because of the uncommon valence state of silicon in the oxide. It has been deduced that amorphous silicon monoxide undergoes an unusual disproportionation by forming silicon- and silicon-dioxide-like regions. Nevertheless, the direct experimental observation is still missing. Here we report the amorphous structure characterized by angstrom-beam electron diffraction, supplemented by synchrotron X-ray scattering and computer simulations. In addition to the theoretically predicted amorphous silicon and silicon-dioxide clusters, suboxide-type tetrahedral coordinates are detected by angstrom-beam electron diffraction at silicon/silicon-dioxide interfaces, which provides compelling experimental evidence on the atomic-scale disproportionation of amorphous silicon monoxide. Eventually we develop a heterostructure model of the disproportionated silicon monoxide which well explains the distinctive structure and properties of the amorphous material.

Concepts: Scientific method, Electron, Diffraction, X-ray, Semiconductor, X-ray crystallography, Silicon dioxide, Amorphous silicon


We demonstrate experimentally ultrafast all-optical switching in subwavelength nonlinear dielectric nanostructures exhibiting localized magnetic Mie resonances. We employ amorphous silicon nanodisks to achieve strong self-modulation of femtosecond pulses with a depth of 60\% at picojoule-per-disk pump energies. In the pump-probe measurements, we reveal that switching in the nanodisks can be governed by pulse-limited 65-fs-long two-photon absorption being enhanced by a factor of 80 with respect to the unstructured silicon film. We also show that undesirable free-carrier effects can be suppressed by a proper spectral positioning of the magnetic resonance, making such a structure the fastest all-optical switch operating at the nanoscale.

Concepts: Photon, Fundamental physics concepts, Nuclear magnetic resonance, Magnetic moment, Capacitor, Resonance, Amorphous silicon, Ultrashort pulse


We present ultra-thin (6 to 31 nm) undoped amorphous silicon/organic hybrid solar cell structure, which can transmit desired color of light. The transmitted colors show great angular tolerance due to the negligible optical phase associated with light propagating in ultra-thin amorphous silicon (a-Si) layers. We achieved the power conversion efficiency of the hybrid cells up to 2 %; and demonstrated that most of the absorbed photons in the undoped a-Si layer contributed to the extracted electric charges due to the suppressed electron-hole recombination in the ultra-thin a-Si layer. We also show the resonance is invariant with respect to the angle of incidence up to ±70° regardless of the polarization of the incident light. Our exploration provides a design to realize energy harvesting colored photovoltaic panels for innovative applications.

Concepts: Energy, Optics, Light, Color, Solar cell, Photovoltaic module, Crystalline silicon, Amorphous silicon


Reactively sputtered nickel oxide (NiOx) films provide transparent, antireflective, electrically conductive, chemically stable coatings that also are highly active electrocatalysts for the oxidation of water to O2(g). These NiOx coatings provide protective layers on a variety of technologically important semiconducting photoanodes, including textured crystalline Si passivated by amorphous silicon, crystalline n-type cadmium telluride, and hydrogenated amorphous silicon. Under anodic operation in 1.0 M aqueous potassium hydroxide (pH 14) in the presence of simulated sunlight, the NiOx films stabilized all of these self-passivating, high-efficiency semiconducting photoelectrodes for >100 h of sustained, quantitative solar-driven oxidation of water to O2(g).

Concepts: Hydrogen, Electrochemistry, Chemical element, Aluminium, Semiconductor, Silicon, Base, Amorphous silicon


Materials providing broadband light antireflection have applications as highly transparent window coatings, military camouflage, and coatings for efficiently coupling light into solar cells and out of light-emitting diodes. In this work, densely packed silicon nanotextures with feature sizes smaller than 50 nm enhance the broadband antireflection compared with that predicted by their geometry alone. A significant fraction of the nanotexture volume comprises a surface layer whose optical properties differ substantially from those of the bulk, providing the key to improved performance. The nanotexture reflectivity is quantitatively well-modelled after accounting for both its profile and changes in refractive index at the surface. We employ block copolymer self-assembly for precise and tunable nanotexture design in the range of ~10-70 nm across macroscopic solar cell areas. Implementing this efficient antireflection approach in crystalline silicon solar cells significantly betters the performance gain compared with an optimized, planar antireflection coating.

Concepts: Solar cell, Wafer, Germanium, Diode, Crystalline silicon, Amorphous silicon, P-n junction, Nanocrystalline silicon