Solar cells based on cadmium and tellurium could move closer to theoretical levels of efficiency because of some sleuthing by researchers at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
A team led by Jonathan Poplawsky of the Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences used advanced microscopy techniques to discover efficiency differences of crystalline structures of various mixtures of cadmium, tellurium and selenium. In fact, selenium is an integral part of the formulation that resulted in a world record for solar cell efficiency. The team's paper is published in Nature Communications.
While some of today's solar cells use a blend of cadmium and tellurium to convert light into electricity, adding the optimum amount of selenium in the right places could help increase efficiency from the current mark of about 22 percent to levels approaching the theoretical limit of 30-33 percent. The trick is to determine the best ratio of selenium.
"Using different microscopy methods, we were able to gain a better understanding of the phases, compositions and crystalline structures that allow these materials to convert light into electricity more efficiently," said Poplawsky, adding that the availability of data is limited. "In some instances, adding too much selenium changes the crystalline structure of cadmium-tellurium and dramatically reduces the conversion efficiency."
For this study, researchers studied four solar cells with different selenium contents - and corresponding changes in crystal structure - and learned that the one with the highest level of selenium did not perform well. Neither did the one with the lowest selenium content. The alloy composition that performed best consisted of approximately 50 percent cadmium, 25 percent tellurium and 25 percent selenium.
To make their determination, researchers used a combination of analytical techniques, including atom probe tomography, transmission electron microscopy and electron beam induced current. These are capabilities within the CNMS, a DOE Office of Science User Facility.
"We have shown that the amount of selenium incorporated into the cadmium-tellurium controls whether the small crystals inside the solar cell form as crystal structure A or crystal structure B," Poplawsky said. "This information can be used as a roadmap for solar cell producers to make improved cadmium-tellurium solar cells that use selenium additions, and hopefully increase the overall efficiency."
Poplawsky noted that solar panels typically use silicon as the material for converting sunlight into electricity. Cadmium-telluride, however, has an advantage over silicon because it can absorb the same amount of sunlight with 98 percent less semiconducting material, thus reducing the overall cost of the solar panel. This also makes solar panels composed of cadmium, tellurium and selenium more competitive with other forms of electricity generation.
ORNL co-authors of the paper, titled "Structure and Compositional Dependence on the CdTexSe1-x Alloy Layer Photoactivity in CdTe-based Solar Cells," are Wei Guo, Karren More and Donovan Leonard.
This research was funded by DOE's SunShot Initiative in collaboration with the National Sciences Foundation.
UT-Battelle manages ORNL for the DOE's Office of Science. The Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit http://science.
About the SunShot Initiative
The SunShot Initiative is a collaborative national effort that aggressively drives innovation to make solar energy fully cost-competitive with traditional energy sources before the end of the decade. Through SunShot, the Energy Department supports efforts by private companies, universities, and national laboratories to drive down the cost of solar electricity to $0.06 per kilowatt-hour. Learn more at energy.gov/sunshot.
Cutline: The entire solar material for the sample with less than or equal to 30 percent selenium is photoactive (top) while the bottom of the solar material for the image below contains greater than 35 percent selenium and has reduced photoactivity.
NOTE TO EDITORS: You may read other press releases from Oak Ridge National Laboratory or learn more about the lab at http://www.
Twitter - http://twitter.
RSS Feeds - http://www.
Ron Walli | EurekAlert!
Producing electricity during flight
20.09.2017 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau
Solar-to-fuel system recycles CO2 to make ethanol and ethylene
19.09.2017 | DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.
The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...
Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...
Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!
When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...
For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.
Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...
MBM ScienceBridge GmbH successfully negotiated a license agreement between University Medical Center Göttingen (UMG) and the biotech company Tissue Systems Holding GmbH about commercial use of a multi-well tissue plate for automated and reliable tissue engineering & drug testing.
MBM ScienceBridge GmbH successfully negotiated a license agreement between University Medical Center Göttingen (UMG) and the biotech company Tissue Systems...
19.09.2017 | Event News
12.09.2017 | Event News
06.09.2017 | Event News
21.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
21.09.2017 | Life Sciences
21.09.2017 | Health and Medicine