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

Concept: P-n junction


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


Molecular electronics aims to miniaturize electronic devices by using subnanometre-scale active components. A single-molecule diode, a circuit element that directs current flow, was first proposed more than 40 years ago and consisted of an asymmetric molecule comprising a donor-bridge-acceptor architecture to mimic a semiconductor p-n junction. Several single-molecule diodes have since been realized in junctions featuring asymmetric molecular backbones, molecule-electrode linkers or electrode materials. Despite these advances, molecular diodes have had limited potential for applications due to their low conductance, low rectification ratios, extreme sensitivity to the junction structure and high operating voltages. Here, we demonstrate a powerful approach to induce current rectification in symmetric single-molecule junctions using two electrodes of the same metal, but breaking symmetry by exposing considerably different electrode areas to an ionic solution. This allows us to control the junction’s electrostatic environment in an asymmetric fashion by simply changing the bias polarity. With this method, we reliably and reproducibly achieve rectification ratios in excess of 200 at voltages as low as 370 mV using a symmetric oligomer of thiophene-1,1-dioxide. By taking advantage of the changes in the junction environment induced by the presence of an ionic solution, this method provides a general route for tuning nonlinear nanoscale device phenomena, which could potentially be applied in systems beyond single-molecule junctions.

Concepts: Cathode, Vacuum tube, Semiconductor, Transistor, Electrode, Diode, Electronics, P-n junction


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


The design of stacks of layered materials in which adjacent layers interact by van der Waals forces has enabled the combination of various two-dimensional crystals with different electrical, optical and mechanical properties as well as the emergence of novel physical phenomena and device functionality. Here, we report photoinduced doping in van der Waals heterostructures consisting of graphene and boron nitride layers. It enables flexible and repeatable writing and erasing of charge doping in graphene with visible light. We demonstrate that this photoinduced doping maintains the high carrier mobility of the graphene/boron nitride heterostructure, thus resembling the modulation doping technique used in semiconductor heterojunctions, and can be used to generate spatially varying doping profiles such as p-n junctions. We show that this photoinduced doping arises from microscopically coupled optical and electrical responses of graphene/boron nitride heterostructures, including optical excitation of defect transitions in boron nitride, electrical transport in graphene, and charge transfer between boron nitride and graphene.

Concepts: Physics, Light, Van der Waals force, Semiconductor, Boron, Boron nitride, P-n junction, Heterojunction


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


Nonvolatile resistive switching has been observed for the first time in CdSe nanowire (NW)/Au Schottky barrier diodes, where a Schottky contact electrode and an Ohmic contact electrode were formed at the Au/CdSe NW and CdSe NW/In interfaces, respectively. The CdSe NWs Schottky devices were found to possess multibit storage ability in an individual nanowire, and exhibited excellent memory characteristics, with a resistance on/off ratio exceeding four orders of magnitude, a long retention time of over 10(4) s and a lower operating voltage of 2 V. By replacing the SiO(2)/Si substrate with a poly ethylene terephthalate substrate, flexible and transparent memory devices with superior stability under strain were realized. The resistive switching of CdSe NW/Au Schottky devices is understood by electron trapping and detrapping in the interfacial oxide layer. Our findings provide a viable way to create new functional high-density nonvolatile multibit memory devices compatible with simple processing techniques for normal one-dimensional nanomaterials.

Concepts: Solar cell, Diode, Polyethylene, Ohm's law, P-n junction, Schottky barrier, Schottky diode, Ohmic contact


Recently, much effort has been devoted to improve the efficiency of organic photovoltaic solar cells based on blends of donors and acceptors molecules in bulk heterojunction architecture. One of the major losses in organic photovoltaic devices has been recombination of polaron pairs at the donor-acceptor domain interfaces. Here, we present a novel method to suppress polaron pair recombination at the donor-acceptor domain interfaces and thus improve the organic photovoltaic solar cell efficiency, by doping the device active layer with spin ½ radical galvinoxyl. At an optimal doping level of 3 wt%, the efficiency of a standard poly(3-hexylthiophene)/1-(3-(methoxycarbonyl)propyl)-1-1-phenyl)(6,6)C(61) solar cell improves by 18%. A spin-flip mechanism is proposed and supported by magneto-photocurrent measurements, as well as by density functional theory calculations in which polaron pair recombination rate is suppressed by resonant exchange interaction between the spin ½ radicals and charged acceptors, which convert the polaron pair spin state from singlet to triplet.

Concepts: DNA, Bacteria, Density functional theory, Solar cell, Photovoltaics, Pauli exclusion principle, P-n junction, Photovoltaic array


The recent stunning rise in power conversion efficiencies (PCEs) of perovskite solar cells (PSCs) has triggered worldwide intense research. However, high PCE values have often been reached with poor stability at an illuminated area of typically less than 0.1 cm(2). We used heavily doped inorganic charge extraction layers in planar PSCs to achieve very rapid carrier extraction even with 10-20 nm thick layers avoiding pinholes and eliminating local structural defects over large areas. This robust inorganic nature allowed for the fabrication of PSCs with an aperture area >1 cm(2) showing a power conversion efficiency (PCE) >15% certified by an accredited photovoltaic calibration laboratory. Hysteresis in the current-voltage characteristics was eliminated; the PSCs were stable: >90% of the initial PCE remained after 1000 hours light soaking.

Concepts: Solar cell, Photovoltaics, Energy conversion, Energy conversion efficiency, Photovoltaic module, Robust statistics, P-n junction, Photovoltaic array


In this work, n-type porous graphite-like C3N4 (denoted as p-g-C3N4) was fabricated and modified with p-type nanostructured BiOI to form a novel BiOI/p-g-C3N4 p-n heterojunction photocatalyst for the efficient photocatalytic degradation of methylene blue (MB). The results show that the BiOI/p-g-C3N4 heterojunction photocatalyst exhibits superior photocatalytic activity compared to pure BiOI and p-g-C3N4. The visible-light photocatalytic activity enhancement of BiOI/p-g-C3N4 heterostructures could be attributed to its strong absorption in the visible region and low recombination rate of the electron-hole pairs because of the heterojunction formed between BiOI and p-g-C3N4. It was also found that the photodegradation of MB molecules is mainly attributed to the oxidation action of the generated O2˙(-) radicals and partly to the action of hvb(+)via direct hole oxidation process.

Concepts: Iron, Semiconductor, Solar cell, Bipolar junction transistor, Photocatalysis, P-n junction, Heterojunction, Electron hole


Molybdenum disulfide (MoS2) is attracting growing curiosities for its high mobility and circular dichroism. As a crucial step to merge these advantages into a single device, we demonstrated an method to electronically control and locate a p-n junction in liquid-gated ambipolar MoS2 transistors. A bias-independent p-n junction was formed and displayed clear rectifying I-V characteristics. Such a p-n diode is expected to play a crucial role in developing optoelectronic valleytronics devices.

Concepts: Vacuum tube, Semiconductor, Transistor, Bipolar junction transistor, Diode, Electronics, Logic gate, P-n junction