Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Amorphous silicon


One important use of layered semiconductors such as molybdenum disulfide (MoS2) could be in making novel heterojunction devices leading to functionalities unachievable using conventional semiconductors. Here we demonstrate a metal-semiconductor-metal heterojunction photodetector, made of MoS2 and amorphous silicon (a-Si), with rise and fall times of about 0.3 ms. The transient response does not show persistent (residual) photoconductivity, unlike conventional a-Si devices where it may last 3-5 ms, thus making this heterojunction roughly 10X faster. A photoresponsivity of 210 mA/W is measured at green light, the wavelength used in commercial imaging systems, which is 2-4X larger than that of a-Si and best reported MoS2 devices. The device could find applications in large area electronics, such as biomedical imaging, where a fast response is critical.

Concepts: Silicon, Amorphous silicon, Semiconductor materials


Metal oxides are generally very stable in aqueous solutions and cheap, but their photochemical activity is usually limited by poor charge carrier separation. Here we show that this problem can be solved by introducing a gradient dopant concentration in the metal oxide film, thereby creating a distributed n(+)-n homojunction. This concept is demonstrated with a low-cost, spray-deposited and non-porous tungsten-doped bismuth vanadate photoanode in which carrier-separation efficiencies of up to 80% are achieved. By combining this state-of-the-art photoanode with an earth-abundant cobalt phosphate water-oxidation catalyst and a double- or single-junction amorphous Si solar cell in a tandem configuration, stable short-circuit water-splitting photocurrents of ~4 and 3 mA cm(-2), respectively, are achieved under 1 sun illumination. The 4 mA cm(-2) photocurrent corresponds to a solar-to-hydrogen efficiency of 4.9%, which is the highest efficiency yet reported for a stand-alone water-splitting device based on a metal oxide photoanode.

Concepts: Oxygen, Chemistry, Uranium, Oxide, Cadmium, Solar cell, Germanium, Amorphous silicon


Fast flexible electronics operating at radio frequencies (>1 GHz) are more attractive than traditional flexible electronics because of their versatile capabilities, dramatic power savings when operating at reduced speed and broader spectrum of applications. Transferrable single-crystalline Si nanomembranes (SiNMs) are preferred to other materials for flexible electronics owing to their unique advantages. Further improvement of Si-based device speed implies significant technical and economic advantages. While the mobility of bulk Si can be enhanced using strain techniques, implementing these techniques into transferrable single-crystalline SiNMs has been challenging and not demonstrated. The past approach presents severe challenges to achieve effective doping and desired material topology. Here we demonstrate the combination of strained- NM-compatible doping techniques with self-sustained-strain sharing by applying a strain-sharing scheme between Si and SiGe multiple epitaxial layers, to create strained print-transferrable SiNMs. We demonstrate a new speed record of Si-based flexible electronics without using aggressively scaled critical device dimensions.

Concepts: Silicon, Hertz, Germanium, Radio, Amorphous silicon, Electronic engineering, Flexible electronics, Semiconductor materials


Understanding the phase separation mechanism of solid-state binary compounds induced by laser-material interaction is a challenge because of the complexity of the compound materials and short processing times. Here we present xenon chloride excimer laser-induced melt-mediated phase separation and surface reconstruction of single-crystal silicon carbide and study this process by high-resolution transmission electron microscopy and a time-resolved reflectance method. A single-pulse laser irradiation triggers melting of the silicon carbide surface, resulting in a phase separation into a disordered carbon layer with partially graphitic domains (∼2.5 nm) and polycrystalline silicon (∼5 nm). Additional pulse irradiations cause sublimation of only the separated silicon element and subsequent transformation of the disordered carbon layer into multilayer graphene. The results demonstrate viability of synthesizing ultra-thin nanomaterials by the decomposition of a binary system.

Concepts: Electron, Carbon, Silicon, Solid, Solar cell, Crystalline silicon, Amorphous silicon, Nanocrystalline silicon


Thin films of hydrogenated amorphous silicon can be produced at MPa pressures from silane without the use of plasma at temperatures as low as 345 °C. High pressure chemical vapor deposition may open a new way to low cost deposition of amorphous silicon solar cells and other thin film structures over very large areas in very compact, simple reactors.

Concepts: Silicon, Solar cell, Pressure, Gas, Chemical vapor deposition, Photovoltaic module, Crystalline silicon, Amorphous silicon


Silicon solar cells with nanopore-type black silicon (b-Si) anti-reflection (AR) layers and self-aligned selective emitter (SE) are reported in which the b-Si structure is prepared without the traditional addition of a nanoparticle (NP) catalyst. The contact-assisted chemical etching (CACE) method here is the first time reported, in which the metal top contacts on silicon solar cell surfaces function as the catalysts for b-Si fabrication and the whole etching process can be done in minutes at room temperature. The CACE method is based on the metal-assisted chemical etching (MACE) solution but without or metal precursor in the Si etchant (HF:H2O2:H2O), and the Au top contacts, or catalysts, are not removed from the solar cell surface after the etching. The effects of etching time, HF and H2O2 concentration and the HF:H2O2 ratio on the b-Si morphology, surface reflectivity, and solar cell efficiency have been investigated. Higher [HF] and [H2O2] with longer etching time cause collapse of the b-Si nanoporous structure and penetration of the p-n junctions, which are detrimental to the solar cell efficiency. The b-Si solar cell fabricated with the HF:H2O2:H2O volume ratio of 3:3:20 and a 3 min-etch time shows the highest efficiency 8.99% along with a decrease of reflectivity from 36.1% to 12.6% compared to the non-etched Si solar cell.

Concepts: Solar cell, Photovoltaics, Wafer, Germanium, Amorphous silicon, P-n junction, Nanocrystalline silicon, Black silicon


Recent advances in molecular organic photovoltaics (OPVs) have shown 10% power conversion efficiency (PCE) for single-junction cells, which put them in direct competition with PVs based on amorphous silicon. Incorporation of plasmonic nanostructures for light trapping in these thin-film devices offers an attractive solution to realize higher-efficiency OPVs with PCE≫10%. This article reviews recent progress on plasmonic-enhanced OPV devices using metallic nanoparticles, and one-dimensional (1D) and two-dimensional (2D) patterned periodic nanostructures. We discuss the benefits of using various plasmonic nanostructures for broad-band, polarization-insensitive and angle-independent absorption enhancement, and their integration with one or two electrode(s) of an OPV device.

Concepts: Oxygen, Chemistry, Vector space, Silicon, Space, Solar cell, Energy conversion, Amorphous silicon


We introduce a simple and inexpensive procedure for epitaxial lift-off of wafer-size flexible and transparent foils of single-crystal gold using silicon as a template. Lateral electrochemical undergrowth of a sacrificial SiO x layer was achieved by photoelectrochemically oxidizing silicon under light irradiation. A 28-nanometer-thick gold foil with a sheet resistance of 7 ohms per square showed only a 4% increase in resistance after 4000 bending cycles. A flexible organic light-emitting diode based on tris(bipyridyl)ruthenium(II) that was spin-coated on a foil exploited the transmittance and flexibility of the gold foil. Cuprous oxide as an inorganic semiconductor that was epitaxially electrodeposited onto the gold foils exhibited a diode quality factor n of 1.6 (where n = 1.0 for an ideal diode), compared with a value of 3.1 for a polycrystalline deposit. Zinc oxide nanowires electrodeposited epitaxially on a gold foil also showed flexibility, with the nanowires intact up to 500 bending cycles.

Concepts: Aluminium, Copper, Semiconductor, Solar cell, Diode, Amorphous silicon, Resistivity, Gallium nitride


Amorphous Si (a-Si) shows potential advantages over crystalline Si (c-Si) in lithium-ion batteries, owing to its high lithiation potential and good tolerance to intrinsic strain/stress. Herein, porous a-Si has been synthesized by a simple process, without the uses of dangerous or expensive reagents, sophisticated equipment, and strong acids that potential cause environment risks. These porous a-Si particles exhibit excellent electrochemical performances, owing to their porous structure, amorphous nature, and surface modification. They deliver a capacity of 1025 mAh g(-1) at 3 A g(-1) after 700 cycles. Moreover, the reversible capacity after electrochemical activation, is quite stable throughout the cycling, resulting in a capacity retention about around 88 %. The direct comparison between a-Si and c-Si anodes clearly supports the advantages of a-Si in lithium-ion batteries.

Concepts: Electrochemistry, Silicon, Battery, Electrolysis, Anode, Crystalline silicon, Amorphous silicon


Silicon nanoparticles with sizes of a few hundred nanometres exhibit unique optical properties due to their strong electric and magnetic dipole responses in the visible range. Here we demonstrate a novel laser printing technique for the controlled fabrication and precise deposition of silicon nanoparticles. Using femtosecond laser pulses it is possible to vary the size of Si nanoparticles and their crystallographic phase. Si nanoparticles produced by femtosecond laser printing are initially in an amorphous phase (a-Si). They can be converted into the crystalline phase (c-Si) by irradiating them with a second femtosecond laser pulse. The resonance-scattering spectrum of c-Si nanoparticles, compared with that of a-Si nanoparticles, is blue shifted and its peak intensity is about three times higher. Resonant optical responses of dielectric nanoparticles are characterized by accumulation of electromagnetic energy in the excited modes, which can be used for the realization of nanoantennas, nanolasers and metamaterials.

Concepts: Ultraviolet, Electromagnetism, Optics, Fundamental physics concepts, Light, Silicon, Wave, Amorphous silicon