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Concept: Cadmium


Cadmium telluride, CdTe, is now firmly established as the basis for the market-leading thin-film solar-cell technology. With laboratory efficiencies approaching 20 per cent, the research and development targets for CdTe are to reduce the cost of power generation further to less than half a US dollar per watt (ref. 2) and to minimize the environmental impact. A central part of the manufacturing process involves doping the polycrystalline thin-film CdTe with CdCl2. This acts to form the photovoltaic junction at the CdTe/CdS interface and to passivate the grain boundaries, making it essential in achieving high device efficiencies. However, although such doping has been almost ubiquitous since the development of this processing route over 25 years ago, CdCl2 has two severe disadvantages; it is both expensive (about 30 cents per gram) and a water-soluble source of toxic cadmium ions, presenting a risk to both operators and the environment during manufacture. Here we demonstrate that solar cells prepared using MgCl2, which is non-toxic and costs less than a cent per gram, have efficiencies (around 13%) identical to those of a CdCl2-processed control group. They have similar hole densities in the active layer (9 × 10(14) cm(-3)) and comparable impurity profiles for Cl and O, these elements being important p-type dopants for CdTe thin films. Contrary to expectation, CdCl2-processed and MgCl2-processed solar cells contain similar concentrations of Mg; this is because of Mg out-diffusion from the soda-lime glass substrates and is not disadvantageous to device performance. However, treatment with other low-cost chlorides such as NaCl, KCl and MnCl2 leads to the introduction of electrically active impurities that do compromise device performance. Our results demonstrate that CdCl2 may simply be replaced directly with MgCl2 in the existing fabrication process, thus both minimizing the environmental risk and reducing the cost of CdTe solar-cell production.

Concepts: Semiconductor, Cadmium, Solar cell, Photovoltaics, Cost, Cadmium telluride, Cadmium sulfide, United States dollar


Following pioneering work, solution-processable organic-inorganic hybrid perovskites-such as CH3NH3PbX3 (X = Cl, Br, I)-have attracted attention as light-harvesting materials for mesoscopic solar cells. So far, the perovskite pigment has been deposited in a single step onto mesoporous metal oxide films using a mixture of PbX2 and CH3NH3X in a common solvent. However, the uncontrolled precipitation of the perovskite produces large morphological variations, resulting in a wide spread of photovoltaic performance in the resulting devices, which hampers the prospects for practical applications. Here we describe a sequential deposition method for the formation of the perovskite pigment within the porous metal oxide film. PbI2 is first introduced from solution into a nanoporous titanium dioxide film and subsequently transformed into the perovskite by exposing it to a solution of CH3NH3I. We find that the conversion occurs within the nanoporous host as soon as the two components come into contact, permitting much better control over the perovskite morphology than is possible with the previously employed route. Using this technique for the fabrication of solid-state mesoscopic solar cells greatly increases the reproducibility of their performance and allows us to achieve a power conversion efficiency of approximately 15 per cent (measured under standard AM1.5G test conditions on solar zenith angle, solar light intensity and cell temperature). This two-step method should provide new opportunities for the fabrication of solution-processed photovoltaic cells with unprecedented power conversion efficiencies and high stability equal to or even greater than those of today’s best thin-film photovoltaic devices.

Concepts: Oxygen, Oxide, Cadmium, Solar cell, Photovoltaics, Titanium dioxide, Energy conversion efficiency, Titanium


The synthesis of designer solid-state materials by living organisms is an emerging field in bio-nanotechnology. Key examples include the use of engineered viruses as templates for cobalt oxide (Co(3)O(4)) particles, superparamagnetic cobalt-platinum alloy nanowires and gold-cobalt oxide nanowires for photovoltaic and battery-related applications. Here, we show that the earthworm’s metal detoxification pathway can be exploited to produce luminescent, water-soluble semiconductor cadmium telluride (CdTe) quantum dots that emit in the green region of the visible spectrum when excited in the ultraviolet region. Standard wild-type Lumbricus rubellus earthworms were exposed to soil spiked with CdCl(2) and Na(2)TeO(3) salts for 11 days. Luminescent quantum dots were isolated from chloragogenous tissues surrounding the gut of the worm, and were successfully used in live-cell imaging. The addition of polyethylene glycol on the surface of the quantum dots allowed for non-targeted, fluid-phase uptake by macrophage cells.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Cadmium, Solar cell, Earthworm, Lumbricidae, Annelids, Lumbricus terrestris


Over the past years a number of studies have described the instability of the pigment cadmium yellow (CdS). In a previous paper we have shown how cadmium sulfide on paintings by James Ensor oxidizes to CdSO(4)·H(2)O. The degradation process gives rise to the fading of the bright yellow color and the formation of disfiguring white crystals that are present on the paint surface in approximately 50 μm sized globular agglomerations. Here, we study cadmium yellow in the painting “Flowers in a blue vase” by Vincent van Gogh. This painting differs from the Ensor case in the fact that (a) a varnish was superimposed onto the degraded paint surface and (b) the CdS paint area is entirely covered with an opaque crust. The latter obscures the yellow color completely and thus presents a seemingly more advanced state of degradation. Analysis of a cross-sectioned and a crushed sample by combining scanning microscopic X-ray diffraction (μ-XRD), microscopic X-ray absorption near-edge spectroscopy (μ-XANES), microscopic X-ray fluorescence (μ-XRF) based chemical state mapping and scanning microscopic Fourier transform infrared (μ-FT-IR) spectrometry allowed unravelling the complex alteration pathway. Although no crystalline CdSO(4) compounds were identified on the Van Gogh paint samples, we conclude that the observed degradation was initially caused by oxidation of the original CdS pigment, similar as for the previous Ensor case. However, due to the presence of an overlying varnish containing lead-based driers and oxalate ions, secondary reactions took place. In particular, it appears that upon the photoinduced oxidation of its sulfidic counterion, the Cd(2+) ions reprecipitated at the paint/varnish interface after having formed a complex with oxalate ions that themselves are considered to be degradation products of the resin and/or oil in the varnish. The SO(4)(2-) anions, for their part, found a suitable reaction partner in Pb(2+) ions stemming from a dissolved lead-based siccative that was added to the varnish to promote its drying. The resulting opaque anglesite compound in the varnish, in combination with the underlying CdC(2)O(4) layer at the paint/varnish interface, account for the orange-gray crust that is disfiguring the painting on a macroscopic level. In this way, the results presented in this paper demonstrate how, through a judicious combined use of several microanalytical methods with speciation capabilities, many new insights can be obtained from two minute, but highly complex and heterogeneous paint samples.

Concepts: Spectroscopy, Cadmium, Pigment, Cadmium sulfide, Expressionism, Vincent van Gogh, Cadmium pigments, Les XX


Many colloidal synthesis routes are not scalable to high production rates, especially for nanoparticles of complex shape or composition, due to precursor expense and hazards, low yields, and the large number of processing steps. The present work describes a strategy to synthesize hollow nanoparticles (HNPs) out of metal chalcogenides, based on the slow heating of a low-melting-point metal salt, an elemental chalcogen, and an alkylammonium surfactant in octadecene solvent. The synthesis and characterization of CdSe HNPs with an outer diameter of 15.6 ± 3.5 nm and a shell thickness of 5.4 ± 0.9 nm are specifically detailed here. The HNP synthesis is proposed to proceed with the formation of alkylammonium-stabilized nano-sized droplets of molten cadmium salt, which then come into contact with dissolved selenium species to form a CdSe shell at the droplet surface. In a reaction-diffusion mechanism similar to the nanoscale Kirkendall effect it is speculated that the cadmium migrates outwardly through this shell to react with more selenium, causing the CdSe shell to thicken. The proposed CdSe HNP structure comprises a polycrystalline CdSe shell coated with a thin layer of amorphous selenium. Photovoltaic device characterization indicates that HNPs have improved electron transport characteristics compared to standard CdSe quantum dots, possibly due to this selenium layer. The HNPs are colloidally stable in organic solvents even though carboxylate, phosphine, and amine ligands are absent; stability is attributed to octadecene-selenide species bound to the particle surface. This scalable synthesis method presents opportunities to generate hollow nanoparticles with increased structural and compositional variety.

Concepts: Nanoparticle, Quantum dot, Colloid, Solvent, Liquid, Cadmium, Solar cell, Solution


Semiconductors with chiral geometries at the nanoscale and mesoscale provide a rich materials platform for polarization optics, photocatalysis, and biomimetics. Unlike metallic and organic optical materials, the relationship between the geometry of chiral semiconductors and their chiroptical properties remains, however, vague. Homochiral ensembles of semiconductor helices with defined geometries open the road to understanding complex relationships between geometrical parameters and chiroptical properties of semiconductor materials. We show that semiconductor helices can be prepared with an absolute yield of ca 0.1% and an enantiomeric excess (e.e.) of 98% or above from cysteine-stabilized cadmium telluride nanoparticles (CdTe NPs) dispersed in methanol. This high e.e. for a spontaneously occurring chemical process is attributed to chiral self-sorting based on the thermodynamic preference of NPs to assemble with those of the same handedness. The dispersions of homochiral self-assembled helices display broadband visible and near-infrared (Vis-NIR) polarization rotation with anisotropy (g) factors approaching 0.01. Calculated circular dichroism (CD) spectra accurately reproduced experimental CD spectra and gave experimentally validated spectral predictions for different geometrical parameters enabling de novo design of chiroptical semiconductor materials. Unlike metallic, ceramic, and polymeric helices that serve predominantly as scatterers, chiroptical properties of semiconductor helices have nearly equal contribution of light absorption and scattering, which is essential for device-oriented, field-driven light modulation. Deconstruction of a helix into a series of nanorods provides a simple model for the light-matter interaction and chiroptical activity of helices. This study creates a framework for further development of polarization-based optics toward biomedical applications, telecommunications, and hyperspectral imaging.

Concepts: Optics, Chirality, Cadmium, Solar cell, Electrical conductivity, Tellurium, Circular dichroism, Dichroism


Well-aligned CdS nanorod arrays (CdS NRs) with ∼100nm in diameter and ∼700nm in length were fabricated on FTO (fluorine-doped tin oxide) substrate by using glutathione as capping agents. The growth of CdS NRs was studied in details by exploring the roles of each active binding group in glutathione. The thiol group in glutathione plays an important role in forming a compact CdS nanocrystal film, upon which the nanorods grow subsequently via the synergetic effect of thiol and dicarboxyl groups in glutathione. The influence of surface passivation with glutathione on the photoelectrical property of CdS NRs was also tested. The results revealed that glutathione ligands encapsulated in the surfaces of CdS NRs act as insulating barriers between CdS NRs and solution, hindering charge transport. Hybrid photovoltaic cells of FTO/CdS NRs/P3HT (poly(3-hexylthiophene))/Au were then assembled. The performance of the photovoltaic devices was increased with increasing the length of the as-prepared CdS nanorods and further enhanced to the highest efficiency of 0.373% after the thermal sulfuration treatment.

Concepts: Zinc, Disulfide bond, Sulfur, Cadmium, Photovoltaics, Cysteine, Thiol, Cadmium sulfide


In contrast to pristine zinc phthalocyanine (1), zinc phthalocyanine based oPPV-oligomers (2-4) of different chain lengths interact tightly and reversibly with graphite, affording stable and finely dispersed suspensions of mono- to few-layer graphene-nanographene (NG)-that are photoactive. The p-type character of the oPPV backbones and the increasing length of the oPPV backbones facilitate the overall π-π interactions with the graphene layers. In NG/2, NG/3, and NG/4 hybrids, strong electronic coupling between the individual components gives rise to charge transfer from the photoexcited zinc phthalocyanines to NG to form hundreds of picoseconds lived charge transfer states. The resulting features, namely photo- and redoxactivity, serve as incentives to construct and to test novel solar cells. Solar cells made out of NG/4 feature stable and repeatable photocurrent generation during several ‘on-off’ cycles of illumination with monochromatic IPCE values of around 1%.

Concepts: Photoelectric effect, Cadmium, Solar cell, Photovoltaics, Length, Photovoltaic module, Band gap, Phthalocyanine


The accumulation of heavy metals in freshwaters has direct consequences to man and ecosystem. Thus, in this study, the concentrations of mercury, cadmium, lead, arsenic and chromium in organs of the predator European catfish (Silurus glanis) were investigated. Samples were collected annually in five sites covering the area of the Po River (North Italy) between 2007 and 2009. Metals were differently distributed in the various organs, the highest concentrations of Hg were found in muscle and liver, Cd in kidney, Pb in gill and liver, as in muscle, and of Cr in gill and liver. Our survey found Hg exceeding the Maximum Levels (MLs) of 0.5ppm in 18% of samples, while Pb and Cd were lower than the MLs set by European regulations in muscle tissues (1881/2006/EC and 629/2008/EC). Hg concentrations were significantly related to sampling stations studied, according to the presence of many industrial activities in the catchment area of Bormida and Tanaro Rivers. The finding that Hg did not fit food fish legislation limits indicated that S. glanis flesh might not be utilised for human consumption. A close monitoring of metals pollution is strongly recommended especially in piscivorous fish, cause their bioaccumulation capacity.

Concepts: Fish, Toxicology, Cadmium, Lead, Veneto, Heavy metal music, Chromium, Wels catfish


We report a novel approach for synthesizing CdS and CdSe quantum dots subsectionally sensitized double-layer ZnO nanorods for solar cells, which are comprised of CdS QDs-sensitized bottom-layer ZnO NRs and CdSe QDs-sensitized top-layer ZnO NRs. X-ray diffraction study and scanning electron microscopy analysis indicate that the solar cells of subsectionally sensitized double-layer ZnO NRs, which are the hexagonal wurtzite crystal structure, have been successfully achieved. The novel structure enlarged the range of absorbed light and enhanced the absorption intensity of light. The I-V characteristics show that the double-layer structure improved both the current density (J(sc)) and fill factor (FF) by 50%, respectively, and power conversion efficiency (η) was increased to twice in comparison with the CdS QDs-sensitized structure.

Concepts: Electron, X-ray, Light, Photoelectric effect, Cadmium, Solar cell, Energy conversion efficiency, Cadmium telluride