The discovery is reported in the latest issue of Nature Materials.
Quantum dots are nanoscale semiconductors that capture light and convert it into an energy source. Because of their small scale, the dots can be sprayed on to flexible surfaces, including plastics. This enables the production of solar cells that are less expensive to produce and more durable than the more widely-known silicon-based version.
In the work highlighted by the Nature Materials paper entitled "Collodial-quantum-dot photovoltaics using atomic-ligand passivation," the researchers demonstrate how the wrappers that encapsulate the quantum dots can be shrunk to a mere layer of atoms.
"We figured out how to shrink the passivating materials to the smallest imaginable size," states Professor Ted Sargent, corresponding author on the work and holder of the Canada Research Chair in Nanotechnology at U of T.
A crucial challenge for the field has been striking a balance between convenience and performance. The ideal design is one that tightly packs the quantum dots together. The greater the distance between quantum dots, the lower the efficiency.
However the quantum dots are usually capped with organic molecules that add a nanometer or two. When working on a nanoscale, that is bulky. Yet the organic molecules have been an important ingredient in creating a colloid, which is a substance that is dispersed in another substance. This allows the quantum dots to be painted on to other surfaces.
To solve the problem, the researchers have turned to inorganic ligands, which bind the quantum dots together while using less space. The result is the same colloid characteristics but without the bulky organic molecules.
"We wrapped a single layer of atoms around each particle. As a result, they packed the quantum dots into a very dense solid," explains Dr. Jiang Tang, the first author of the paper who conducted the research while a post-doctoral fellow in The Edward S. Rogers Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering at U of T.
The team showed the highest electrical currents, and the highest overall power conversion efficiency, ever seen in CQD solar cells. The performance results were certified by an external laboratory, Newport, that is accredited by the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
"The team proved that we were able to remove charge traps - locations where electrons get stuck - while still packing the quantum dots closely together," says Professor John Asbury of Penn State, a co-author of the work.
The combination of close packing and charge trap elimination enabled electrons to move rapidly and smoothly through the solar cells, thus providing record efficiency.
"This finding proves the power of inorganic ligands in building practical devices," states Professor Dmitri Talapin of The University of Chicago, who is a research leader in the field. "This new surface chemistry provides the path toward both efficient and stable quantum dot solar cells. It should also impact other electronic and optoelectronic devices that utilize colloidal nanocrystals. Advantages of the all-inorganic approach include vastly improved electronic transport and a path to long-term stability."
"At KAUST we were able to visualize, with incredible resolution on the sub-nanometer lengthscale, the structure and composition of this remarkable new class of materials," states Professor Aram Amassian of KAUST, a co-author on the work.
"We proved that the inorganic passivants were tightly correlated with the location of the quantum dots; and that it was this new approach to chemical passivation, rather than nanocrystal ordering, that led to this record-breaking colloidal quantum dot solar cell performance," he adds.
As a result of the potential of this research discovery, a technology licensing agreement has been signed by U of T and KAUST, brokered by MaRS Innovations (MI), which will will enable the global commercialization of this new technology.
"The world - and the marketplace - need solar innovations that break the existing compromise between performance and cost. Through U of T's, MI's, and KAUST's partnership, we are poised to translate exciting research into tangible innovations that can be commercialized," said Sargent.
To read the published paper in its entirety, please contact Liam Mitchell, Communications & Media Relations Strategist for the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering, University of Toronto.
About Engineering at the University of Toronto
The Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering at the University of Toronto is the premier engineering institution in Canada and among the very best in the world. With approximately 4,850 undergraduates, 1,600 graduate students and 230 professors, U of T Engineering is at the fore of innovation in engineering education and research. www.engineering.utoronto.ca
For more information, please contact:Professor Edward Sargent
Liam Mitchell | EurekAlert!
Argon is not the 'dope' for metallic hydrogen
24.03.2017 | Carnegie Institution for Science
Researchers make flexible glass for tiny medical devices
24.03.2017 | Brigham Young University
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
24.03.2017 | Materials Sciences
24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy