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

Concept: 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


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


Control over morphology and crystallinity of metal halide perovskite films is of key importance to enable high-performance optoelectronics. However, this remains particularly challenging for solution-printed devices due to the complex crystallization kinetics of semiconductor materials within dynamic flow of inks. Here we report a simple yet effective meniscus-assisted solution printing (MASP) strategy to yield large-grained dense perovskite film with good crystallization and preferred orientation. Intriguingly, the outward convective flow triggered by fast solvent evaporation at the edge of the meniscus ink imparts the transport of perovskite solutes, thus facilitating the growth of micrometre-scale perovskite grains. The growth kinetics of perovskite crystals is scrutinized by in situ optical microscopy tracking to understand the crystallization mechanism. The perovskite films produced by MASP exhibit excellent optoelectronic properties with efficiencies approaching 20% in planar perovskite solar cells. This robust MASP strategy may in principle be easily extended to craft other solution-printed perovskite-based optoelectronics.

Concepts: Semiconductor, Solar cell, Wafer, Germanium, Photodiode, Diode, Band gap, P-n junction


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


Ternary oxides are potential candidates as an electron-transporting material that can replace TiO(2) in dye-sensitized solar cells (DSSCs), as their electronic/optical properties can be easily controlled by manipulating the composition and/or by doping. Here, we report a new highly efficient DSSC using perovskite BaSnO(3) (BSO) nanoparticles. In addition, the effects of a TiCl(4) treatment on the physical, chemical, and photovoltaic properties of the BSO-based DSSCs are investigated. The TiCl(4) treatment was found to form an ultrathin TiO(2) layer on the BSO surface, the thickness of which increases with the treatment time. The formation of the TiO(2) shell layer improved the charge-collection efficiency by enhancing the charge transport and suppressing the charge recombination. It was also found that the TiCl(4) treatment significantly reduces the amount of surface OH species, resulting in reduced dye adsorption and reduced light-harvesting efficiency. The trade-off effect between the charge-collection and light-harvesting efficiencies resulted in the highest quantum efficiency (i.e., short-circuit photocurrent density), leading to the highest conversion efficiency of 5.5% after a TiCl(4) treatment of 3 min (cf. 4.5% for bare BSO). The conversion efficiency could be increased further to 6.2% by increasing the thickness of the BSO film, which is one of the highest efficiencies from non-TiO(2)-based DSSCs.

Concepts: Photoelectric effect, Chemistry, Solar cell, Photovoltaics, Titanium dioxide, Energy conversion, Dye-sensitized solar cell, P-n junction


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