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

Concept: Energy conversion efficiency


Solar energy is potentially the largest source of renewable energy at our disposal, but significant advances are required to make photovoltaic technologies economically viable and, from a life-cycle perspective, environmentally friendly, and consequently scalable. Cellulose nanomaterials are emerging high-value nanoparticles extracted from plants that are abundant, renewable, and sustainable. Here, we report on the first demonstration of efficient polymer solar cells fabricated on optically transparent cellulose nanocrystal (CNC) substrates. The solar cells fabricated on the CNC substrates display good rectification in the dark and reach a power conversion efficiency of 2.7%. In addition, we demonstrate that these solar cells can be easily separated and recycled into their major components using low-energy processes at room temperature, opening the door for a truly recyclable solar cell technology. Efficient and easily recyclable organic solar cells on CNC substrates are expected to be an attractive technology for sustainable, scalable, and environmentally-friendly energy production.

Concepts: Energy, Quantum dot, Solar cell, Photovoltaics, Organic solar cell, Energy conversion, Energy conversion efficiency, Renewable energy


Combining carbon nanotubes (CNTs), graphene or conducting polymers with conventional silicon wafers leads to promising solar cell architectures with rapidly improved power conversion efficiency until recently. Here, we report CNT-Si junction solar cells with efficiencies reaching 15% by coating a TiO(2) antireflection layer and doping CNTs with oxidative chemicals, under air mass (AM 1.5) illumination at a calibrated intensity of 100 mW/cm(2) and an active device area of 15 mm(2). The TiO(2) layer significantly inhibits light reflectance from the Si surface, resulting in much enhanced short-circuit current (by 30%) and external quantum efficiency. Our method is simple, well-controlled, and very effective in boosting the performance of CNT-Si solar cells.

Concepts: Light, Carbon, Solar cell, Energy conversion, Energy conversion efficiency, Germanium, P-n junction


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


Active electronic implants are powered by primary batteries, which induces the necessity of implant replacement after battery depletion. This causes repeated interventions in a patients' life, which bears the risk of complications and is costly. By using energy harvesting devices to power the implant, device replacements may be avoided and the device size may be reduced dramatically. Recently, several groups presented prototypes of implants powered by subcutaneous solar cells. However, data about the expected real-life power output of subcutaneously implanted solar cells was lacking so far. In this study, we report the first real-life validation data of energy harvesting by subcutaneous solar cells. Portable light measurement devices that feature solar cells (cell area = 3.6 cm(2)) and continuously measure a subcutaneous solar cell’s output power were built. The measurement devices were worn by volunteers in their daily routine in summer, autumn and winter. In addition to the measured output power, influences such as season, weather and human activity were analyzed. The obtained mean power over the whole study period was 67 µW (=19 µW cm(-2)), which is sufficient to power e.g. a cardiac pacemaker.

Concepts: Measurement, Solar cell, Energy conversion, Energy conversion efficiency, Diode, IBM, P-n junction, Energy harvesting


Silicon nanowire and nanopore arrays promise to reduce manufacturing costs and increase the power conversion efficiency of photovoltaic devices. So far, however, photovoltaic cells based on nanostructured silicon exhibit lower power conversion efficiencies than conventional cells due to the enhanced photocarrier recombination associated with the nanostructures. Here, we identify and separately measure surface recombination and Auger recombination in wafer-based nanostructured silicon solar cells. By identifying the regimes of junction doping concentration in which each mechanism dominates, we were able to design and fabricate an independently confirmed 18.2%-efficient nanostructured ‘black-silicon’ cell that does not need the antireflection coating layer(s) normally required to reach a comparable performance level. Our results suggest design rules for efficient high-surface-area solar cells with nano- and microstructured semiconductor absorbers.

Concepts: Semiconductor, Solar cell, Photovoltaics, Energy conversion efficiency, Germanium, Photovoltaic module, P-n junction, Carrier generation and recombination


An effective way to improve polymer solar cell efficiency is to use a tandem structure, as a broader part of the spectrum of solar radiation is used and the thermalization loss of photon energy is minimized. In the past, the lack of high-performance low-bandgap polymers was the major limiting factor for achieving high-performance tandem solar cell. Here we report the development of a high-performance low bandgap polymer (bandgap <1.4 eV), poly[2,7-(5,5-bis-(3,7-dimethyloctyl)-5H-dithieno[3,2-b:2',3'-d]pyran)-alt-4,7-(5,6-difluoro-2,1,3-benzothia diazole)] with a bandgap of 1.38 eV, high mobility, deep highest occupied molecular orbital. As a result, a single-junction device shows high external quantum efficiency of >60% and spectral response that extends to 900 nm, with a power conversion efficiency of 7.9%. The polymer enables a solution processed tandem solar cell with certified 10.6% power conversion efficiency under standard reporting conditions (25 °C, 1,000 Wm(-2), IEC 60904-3 global), which is the first certified polymer solar cell efficiency over 10%.

Concepts: Photon, Energy, Light, Quantum dot, Solar cell, Energy conversion, Energy conversion efficiency, Watt


The energy costs associated with separating tightly bound excitons (photoinduced electron-hole pairs) and extracting free charges from highly disordered low-mobility networks represent fundamental losses for many low-cost photovoltaic technologies. We report a low-cost, solution-processable solar cell, based on a highly crystalline perovskite absorber with intense visible to near-infrared absorptivity, that has a power conversion efficiency of 10.9% in a single-junction device under simulated full sunlight. This “meso-superstructured solar cell” exhibits exceptionally few fundamental energy losses; it can generate open-circuit photovoltages of more than 1.1 volts, despite the relatively narrow absorber band gap of 1.55 electron volts. The functionality arises from the use of mesoporous alumina as an inert scaffold that structures the absorber and forces electrons to reside in and be transported through the perovskite.

Concepts: Energy, Photoelectric effect, Semiconductor, Solar cell, Photovoltaics, Energy conversion efficiency, Photodiode, Band gap


The band gap of formamidinium lead iodide (FAPbI3) perovskites allows broader absorption of the solar spectrum compared to conventional methylammonium lead iodide (MAPbI3). The optoelectronic properties of perovskite films are closely related to the film-quality, so depositing dense and uniform films is crucial for fabricating high-performance perovskite solar cells (PSCs). We report an approach for depositing high-quality FAPbI3 films, involving FAPbI3 crystallization by the direct intramolecular exchange of dimethylsulfoxide (DMSO) molecules intercalated in PbI2 with formamidinium iodide. This process produces FAPbI3 films with (111)-preferred crystallographic orientation, large-grained dense microstructures, and flat surfaces without residual PbI2. Using films prepared by this technique, FAPbI3-based PSCs with maximum power conversion efficiency of over 20% were fabricated.

Concepts: Crystallography, Solar cell, Photovoltaics, Energy conversion, Energy conversion efficiency, Photodiode, Band gap, Lead(II) nitrate


Carbon nanotube-Si and graphene-Si solar cells have attracted much interest recently owing to their potential in simplifying manufacturing process and lowering cost compared to Si cells. Until now, the power conversion efficiency of graphene-Si cells remains under 10% and well below that of the nanotube-Si counterpart. Here, we involved a colloidal anti-reflection coating onto a monolayer graphene-Si solar cell, and enhanced the cell efficiency to 14.5% under standard illumination (air mass 1.5, 100 mW/cm2) with a stable anti-reflection effect over long time. The anti-reflection treatment was realized by a simple spin-coating process, which significantly increased the short-circuit current density and the incident photon-to-electron conversion efficiency to about 90% across the visible range. Our results demonstrate a great promise in developing high-efficiency graphene-Si solar cells in parallel to the more extensively studied carbon nanotube-Si structures.

Concepts: Electric current, Solar cell, Energy conversion, Energy conversion efficiency, Germanium, IBM


Nanoclay minerals play a promising role as additives in the liquid electrolyte to form a gel electrolyte for quasi-solid-state dye-sensitized solar cells because of their high chemical stability, unique swelling ability, ion exchange capacity and rheological properties. Here we report the improved performance of a quasi-solid-state gel electrolyte comprising a liquid electrolyte and synthetic nitrate-hydrotalcite nanoclay. Charge transport mechanism in the gel electrolyte, and nanoclay interactions with TiO2/electrolyte interface are discussed in detail. The electrochemical analysis reveals that the charge transport is solely based on physical diffusion. The calculated physical diffusion coefficient shows that the diffusion of redox ions is not much affected by the viscosity of nanoclay gel. The addition of nitrate-hydrotalcite clay in electrolyte has the effect of buffering the protonation process at TiO2/electrolyte interface, resulting in conduction band up-shift and a boost in Voc. Higher Voc with undiminished photocurrent is achieved with nitrate-hydrotalcite nanoclay gel electrolyte for organic as well as for inorganic dye (D35 and N719) systems. 10 % improvement in the efficiency for hydrotalcite clay gel electrolyte is obtained, compared to that of the liquid electrolyte. The power conversion efficiency can be achieved as high as 10.1% under 0.25 sun and 9.6% under full sun. This study demonstrates that nitrate-hydrotalcite nanoclay in the electrolyte not only solidifies the liquid electrolyte to prevent solvent leakage, but also facilitates the improvement in cell efficiency.  

Concepts: Electrochemistry, Physical chemistry, Solar cell, Titanium dioxide, Energy conversion, Energy conversion efficiency, Dye-sensitized solar cell, Thin film solar cell