Low-temperature epitaxial growth of AlN ultrathin films was realized by atomic layer deposition (ALD) together with the layer-by-layer, in-situ atomic layer annealing (ALA), instead of a high growth temperature which is needed in conventional epitaxial growth techniques. By applying the ALA with the Ar plasma treatment in each ALD cycle, the AlN thin film was converted dramatically from the amorphous phase to a single-crystalline epitaxial layer, at a low deposition temperature of 300 °C. The energy transferred from plasma not only provides the crystallization energy but also enhances the migration of adatoms and the removal of ligands, which significantly improve the crystallinity of the epitaxial layer. The X-ray diffraction reveals that the full width at half-maximum of the AlN (0002) rocking curve is only 144 arcsec in the AlN ultrathin epilayer with a thickness of only a few tens of nm. The high-resolution transmission electron microscopy also indicates the high-quality single-crystal hexagonal phase of the AlN epitaxial layer on the sapphire substrate. The result opens a window for further extension of the ALD applications from amorphous thin films to the high-quality low-temperature atomic layer epitaxy, which can be exploited in a variety of fields and applications in the near future.
GaN-based light-emitting diodes (LEDs) have been widely accepted as highly efficient solid-state light sources capable of replacing conventional incandescent and fluorescent lamps. However, their applications are limited to small devices because their fabrication process is expensive as it involves epitaxial growth of GaN by metal-organic chemical vapor deposition (MOCVD) on single crystalline sapphire wafers. If a low-cost epitaxial growth process such as sputtering on a metal foil can be used, it will be possible to fabricate large-area and flexible GaN-based light-emitting displays. Here we report preparation of GaN films on nearly lattice-matched flexible Hf foils using pulsed sputtering deposition (PSD) and demonstrate feasibility of fabricating full-color GaN-based LEDs. It was found that introduction of low-temperature (LT) grown layers suppressed the interfacial reaction between GaN and Hf, allowing the growth of high-quality GaN films on Hf foils. We fabricated blue, green, and red LEDs on Hf foils and confirmed their normal operation. The present results indicate that GaN films on Hf foils have potential applications in fabrication of future large-area flexible GaN-based optoelectronics.
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.
Semiconductor heterostructures provide a powerful platform to engineer the dynamics of excitons for fundamental and applied interests. However, the functionality of conventional semiconductor heterostructures is often limited by inefficient charge transfer across interfaces due to the interfacial imperfection caused by lattice mismatch. Here we demonstrate that MoS2/WS2 heterostructures consisting of monolayer MoS2 and WS2 stacked in the vertical direction can enable equally efficient interlayer exciton relaxation regardless the epitaxy and orientation of the stacking. This is manifested by a similar two orders of magnitude decrease of photoluminescence intensity in both epitaxial and non-epitaxial MoS2/WS2 heterostructures. Both heterostructures also show similarly improved absorption beyond the simple super-imposition of the absorptions of monolayer MoS2 and WS2. Our result indicates that 2D heterostructures bear significant implications for the development of photonic devices, in particular those requesting efficient exciton separation and strong light absorption, such as solar cells, photodetectors, modulators, and photocatalysts. It also suggests that the simple stacking of dissimilar 2D materials with random orientations is a viable strategy to fabricate complex functional 2D heterostructures, which would show similar optical functionality as the counterpart with perfect epitaxy.
Hybrid organic/lead halide perovskites are promising materials for solar cell fabrication, resulting in efficiencies up to 18%. The most commonly-studied perovskites are CH3NH3PbI3 and CH3NH3Pb(I3-xClx) where x is small. Importantly, in the latter system, the presence of chloride ion source in the starting solutions used for the perovskite deposition results in a strong increase in the overall charge diffusion length. In this work we investigate the crystallization parameters relevant to fabrication of perovskite materials based on CH3NH3PbI3 and CH3NH3PbBr3. We find that the addition of PbCl2 to the solutions used in the perovskite synthesis has a remarkable effect on the end product, because PbCl2 nanocrystals are present during the fabrication process, acting as heterogeneous nucleation sites for the formation of perovskite crystals in solution. We base this conclusion on SEM studies, synthesis of perovskite single crystals, and on cryo-TEM imaging of the frozen mother liquid. Our studies also included the effect of different substrates and substrate temperatures on the perovskite nucleation efficiency. In view of our findings, we optimized the procedures for solar cells based on lead bromide perovskite, resulting in 5.7% efficiency and Voc of 1.24 V, improving the performance in this class of devices. Insights gained from understanding the hybrid perovskite crystallization process can aid in rational design of the polycrystalline absorber films, leading to their improved performance.
Organic-inorganic perovskites are well suited for optoelectronic applications. In particular, perovskite single and perovskite tandem solar cells with silicon are close to their market entry. Despite their swift rise in efficiency to more than 21%, solar cell lifetimes are way below the needed 25 years. In fact, comparison of the time when the device performance has degraded to 80% of its initial value (T80 lifetime) of numerous solar cells throughout the literature reveals a strongly reduced stability under illumination. Herein, the various detrimental effects are discussed. Most notably, moisture- and heat-related degradation can be mitigated easily by now. Recently, however, several photoinduced degradation mechanisms have been observed. Under illumination, mixed perovskites tend to phase segregate, while, further, oxygen catalyzes deprotonation of the organic cations. Additionally, during illumination photogenerated charge can be trapped in the NH antibonding orbitals causing dissociation of the organic cation. On the other hand, organic-inorganic perovskites exhibit a high radiation hardness that is superior to crystalline silicon. Here, the proposed degradation mechanisms reported in the literature are thoroughly reviewed and the microscopic mechanisms and their implications for solar cells are discussed.
Few-layered transition metal dichalcogenides (TMDs) are known as true two-dimensional materials, with excellent semiconducting properties and strong light-matter interaction. Thus, TMDs are attractive materials for semitransparent and flexible solar cells for use in various applications. Hoewver, despite the recent progress, the development of a scalable method to fabricate semitransparent and flexible solar cells with mono- or few-layered TMDs remains a crucial challenge. Here, we show easy and scalable fabrication of a few-layered TMD solar cell using a Schottky-type configuration to obtain a power conversion efficiency (PCE) of approximately 0.7%, which is the highest value reported with few-layered TMDs. Clear power generation was also observed for a device fabricated on a large SiO2 and flexible substrate, demonstrating that our method has high potential for scalable production. In addition, systematic investigation revealed that the PCE and external quantum efficiency (EQE) strongly depended on the type of photogenerated excitons (A, B, and C) because of different carrier dynamics. Because high solar cell performance along with excellent scalability can be achieved through the proposed process, our fabrication method will contribute to accelerating the industrial use of TMDs as semitransparent and flexible solar cells.
Multi-junction solar cells made by assembling semiconductor materials with different bandgap energies have hold the record conversion efficiencies for many years and are currently approaching 50%. Theoretical efficiency limits make use of optimum designs with the right lattice constant-bandgap energy combination, which requires a 1.0-1.15 eV material lattice-matched to GaAs/Ge. Nevertheless, the lack of suitable semiconductor materials is hindering the achievement of the predicted efficiencies, since the only candidates were up to now complex quaternary and quinary alloys with inherent epitaxial growth problems that degrade carrier dynamics. Here we show how the use of strain-balanced GaAsSb/GaAsN superlattices might solve this problem. We demonstrate that the spatial separation of Sb and N atoms avoids the ubiquitous growth problems and improves crystal quality. Moreover, these new structures allow for additional control of the effective bandgap through the period thickness and provide a type-II band alignment with long carrier lifetimes. All this leads to a strong enhancement of the external quantum efficiency under photovoltaic conditions with respect to bulk layers of equivalent thickness. Our results show that GaAsSb/GaAsN superlattices with short periods are the ideal (pseudo)material to be integrated in new GaAs/Ge-based multi-junction solar cells that could approach the theoretical efficiency limit.
Integrating different semiconductor materials into an epitaxial device structure offers additional degrees of freedom to select for optimal material properties in each layer. However, interfaces between materials with different valences (i.e. III-V, II-VI and IV semiconductors) can be difficult to form with high quality. Using ZnSe/GaAs as a model system, we explore the use of ultraviolet (UV) illumination during heterovalent interface growth by molecular beam epitaxy as a way to modify the interface properties. We find that UV illumination alters the mixture of chemical bonds at the interface, permitting the formation of Ga-Se bonds that help to passivate the underlying GaAs layer. Illumination also helps to reduce defects in the ZnSe epilayer. These results suggest that moderate UV illumination during growth may be used as a way to improve the optical properties of both the GaAs and ZnSe layers on either side of the interface.
Sequential deposition has been extensively used for the fabrication of perovskite solar cells. Nevertheless, fundamental aspects of the kinetics of methylammonium lead iodide perovskite formation remain obscure. We scrutinize the individual stages of the reaction and investigate the crystallization of the lead iodide film, which occurs before the intercalation of methylammonium iodide commences. Our study identifies the presence of mixed crystalline aggregates composed of perovskite and lead iodide during intercalation and structural reorganization. Furthermore, Ostwald ripening occurs in the film for reaction times beyond the point of conversion to perovskite. Using cross-sectional confocal laser scanning microscopy for the first time, we reveal that lead iodide in the over-layer and at the bottom of the mesoporous layer converts first. We identify unreacted lead iodide trapped in the mesoporous layer for samples of complete conversion. We acquire kinetic data by varying different parameters and find that the Avrami models best represent them. The model facilitates the rapid estimation of the reaction time for complete conversion for a variety of reaction conditions, thereby ascertaining a major factor previously determined by extensive experimentation. This comprehensive picture of the sequential deposition is essential for control over the perovskite film quality, which determines solar cell efficiency. Our results provide key insights to realize high-quality perovskite films for optoelectronic applications.