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

Concept: Solar cell


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


Recent advances in nanophotonic light trapping open up the new gateway to enhance the absorption of solar energy beyond the so called Yablonovitch Limit. It addresses the urgent needs in developing low cost thin-film solar photovoltaic technologies. However, current design strategy mainly relies on the parametric approach that is subject to the predefined topological design concepts based on physical intuition. Incapable of dealing with the topological variation severely constrains the design of optimal light trapping structure. Inspired by natural evolution process, here we report a design framework driven by topology optimization based on genetic algorithms to achieve a highly efficient light trapping structure. It has been demonstrated that the optimal light trapping structures obtained in this study exhibit more than 3-fold increase over the Yablonovitch Limit with the broadband absorption efficiency of 48.1%, beyond the reach of intuitive designs.

Concepts: Evolution, Energy, Topology, Solar cell, Photovoltaics, Design, Solar energy, Solar thermal energy


The grand vision of manufacturing large-area emissive devices with low-cost roll-to-roll coating methods, akin to how newspapers are produced, appeared with the emergence of the organic light-emitting diode about 20 years ago. Today, small organic light-emitting diode displays are commercially available in smartphones, but the promise of a continuous ambient fabrication has unfortunately not materialized yet, as organic light-emitting diodes invariably depend on the use of one or more time- and energy-consuming process steps under vacuum. Here we report an all-solution-based fabrication of an alternative emissive device, a light-emitting electrochemical cell, using a slot-die roll-coating apparatus. The fabricated flexible sheets exhibit bidirectional and uniform light emission, and feature a fault-tolerant >1-μm-thick active material that is doped in situ during operation. It is notable that the initial preparation of inks, the subsequent coating of the constituent layers and the final device operation all could be executed under ambient air.

Concepts: Cathode, Vacuum tube, Light, Solar cell, Electrode, Light-emitting diode, Diode, Light-emitting diodes


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


In this work, we report a direct synthesis of vertically aligned ZnO nanowires on fluorine-doped tin oxide-coated substrates using the chemical vapor deposition (CVD) method. ZnO nanowires with a length of more than 30 μm were synthesized, and dye-sensitized solar cells (DSSCs) based on the as-grown nanowires were fabricated, which showed improvement of the device performance compared to those fabricated using transferred ZnO nanowires. Dependence of the cell performance on nanowire length and annealing temperature was also examined. This synthesis method provided a straightforward, one-step CVD process to grow relatively long ZnO nanowires and avoided subsequent nanowire transfer process, which simplified DSSC fabrication and improved cell performance.

Concepts: Chromosome, Chemical reaction, Nanowire, Solar cell, Photovoltaics, Titanium dioxide, Dye-sensitized solar cell, Chemical vapor deposition


We report the growth and characterization of ZnO/ZnTe core/shell nanowire arrays on indium tin oxide. Coating of the ZnTe layer on well-aligned vertical ZnO nanowires has been demonstrated by scanning electron microscope, tunneling electron microscope, X-ray diffraction pattern, photoluminescence, and transmission studies. The ZnO/ZnTe core/shell nanowire arrays were then used as the active layer and carrier transport medium to fabricate a photovoltaic device. The enhanced photocurrent and faster response observed in ZnO/ZnTe, together with the quenching of the UV emission in the PL spectra, indicate that carrier separation in this structure plays an important role in determining their optical response. The results also indicate that core/shell structures can be made into useful photovoltaic devices.

Concepts: Electron, Electron microscope, Diffraction, X-ray, Optics, Electromagnetic radiation, Solar cell, Zinc oxide


With particular focus on bulk heterojunction solar cells incorporating ZnO nanorods, we study how different annealing environments (air or Zn environment) and temperatures impact on the photoluminescence response. Our work gives new insight into the complex defect landscape in ZnO, and it also shows how the different defect types can be manipulated. We have determined the emission wavelengths for the two main defects which make up the visible band, the oxygen vacancy emission wavelength at approximately 530 nm and the zinc vacancy emission wavelength at approximately 630 nm. The precise nature of the defect landscape in the bulk of the nanorods is found to be unimportant to photovoltaic cell performance although the surface structure is more critical. Annealing of the nanorods is optimum at 300[degree sign]C as this is a sufficiently high temperature to decompose Zn(OH)2 formed at the surface of the nanorods during electrodeposition and sufficiently low to prevent ITO degradation.

Concepts: Light, Zinc, Solar cell, Photovoltaics, Indium tin oxide, Visible spectrum, Photovoltaic module, Band gap


We report an enhancement in the efficiency of organic solar cells via the incorporation of gold (Au) or silver (Ag) nanoparticles (NPs) in the hole-transporting buffer layer of poly(3,4-ethylenedioxythiophene):poly(styrenesulfonate) (PEDOT:PSS), which was formed on an indium tin oxide (ITO) surface by the spin-coating of PEDOT:PSS-Au or Ag NPs composite solution. The composite solution was synthesized by a simple in situ preparation method which involved the reduction of chloroauric acid (HAuCl4) or silver nitrate (AgNO3) with sodium borohydride (NaBH4) solution in the presence of aqueous PEDOT:PSS media. The NPs were well dispersed in the PEDOT:PSS media and showed a characteristic absorption peak due to the surface plasmon resonance effect. Organic solar cells with the structure of ITO/PEDOT:PSS-Au, Ag NPs/poly(3-hexylthiophene):[6,6]-phenyl-C61-butyric acid methyl ester (P3HT:PC61BM)/LiF/Al exhibited an 8% improvement in their power conversion efficiency mainly due to the enlarged surface roughness of the PEDOT:PSS, which lead to an improvement in the charge collection and ultimately improvements in the short-circuit current density and fill factor.

Concepts: Gold, Lithium aluminium hydride, Solar cell, Indium tin oxide, Energy conversion, Silver, Surface plasmon resonance, PEDOT:PSS


Metal halides perovskites, such as hybrid organic-inorganic CH3NH3PbI3, are newcomer optoelectronic materials that have attracted enormous attention as solution-deposited absorbing layers in solar cells with power conversion efficiencies reaching 20%. Herein we demonstrate a new avenue for halide perovskties by designing perovskite-based quantum dot materials. We have synthesized monodisperse, colloidal nanocubes (4-15 nm edge lengths) of fully inorganic cesium lead halide perovskites (CsPbX3, X=Cl, Br, I or mixed halide systems Cl/Br and Br/I) using inexpensive commercial precursors. Through compositional modulations and quantum size-effects, the bandgap energies and emission spectra are readily tunable over the entire visible spectral region of 410-700 nm. The photoluminescence of CsPbX3 nanocrystals is characterized by narrow emission line-widths of 12-42 nm, wide color gamut covering up to 140% of the NTSC color standard, high quantum yields of up to 90% and radiative lifetimes in the range of 4-29 ns. The compelling combination of enhanced optical properties and chemical robustness makes CsPbX3 nanocrystals appealing for optoelectronic applications, particularly for blue and green spectral regions (410-530 nm), where typical metal chalcogenide-based quantum dots suffer from photodegradation.

Concepts: Quantum dot, Color, Solar cell, Light-emitting diode, Color space, Band gap, Color theory, Gamut


Layered graphitic materials exhibit new intriguing electronic structure and the search for new types of two-dimensional (2D) monolayer is of importance for the fabrication of next generation miniature electronic and optoelectronic devices. By means of density functional theory (DFT) computations, we investigated in detail the structural, electronic, mechanical and optical properties of the single-layer bismuth iodide (BiI3) nanosheet. Monolayer BiI3 is dynamically stable as confirmed by the computed phonon spectrum. The cleavage energy (Ecl) and interlayer coupling strength of bulk BiI3 are comparable to the experimental values of graphite, which indicates that the exfoliation of BiI3 is highly feasible. The obtained stress-strain curve shows that the BiI3 nanosheet is a brittle material with a breaking strain of 13%. The BiI3 monolayer has an indirect band gap of 1.57 eV with spin orbit coupling (SOC), indicating its potential application for solar cells. Furthermore, the band gap of BiI3 monolayer can be modulated by biaxial strain. Most interestingly, interfacing electrically active graphene with monolayer BiI3 nanosheet leads to enhanced light absorption compared to that in pure monolayer BiI3 nanosheet, highlighting its great potential applications in photonics and photovoltaic solar cells.

Concepts: Photon, Optics, Density functional theory, Graphite, Solar cell, Photodiode, Band gap, Photonics