A simple and inexpensive fabrication procedure boosts the light-capturing capabilities of tiny holes carved into silicon wafers.
Increasing the cost-effectiveness of photovoltaic devices is critical to making these renewable energy sources competitive with traditional fossil fuels. One possibility is to use hybrid solar cells that combine silicon nanowires with low-cost, photoresponsive polymers.
A straightforward procedure that transforms silver nanospheres (top) into silicon nanoholes (bottom) can overcome the shortcomings of nanowire-based solar cells
Reproduced, with permission, from Ref.1 © 2014 American Institute of Physics
The high surface area and confined nature of nanowires allows them to trap significant amounts of light for solar cell operations. Unfortunately, these thin, needle-like structures are very fragile and tend to stick together when the wires become too long.
Now, findings by Xincai Wang from the A*STAR Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology and co-workers from Nanyang Technological University could turn the tables on silicon nanowires by improving the manufacturing of silicon ‘nanoholes’ — narrow cavities carved into silicon wafers that have enhanced mechanical and light-harvesting capabilities(1).
Nanoholes are particularly effective at capturing light because photons can ricochet many times inside these openings until absorption occurs. Yet a practical understanding of how to fabricate these tiny structures is still lacking. One significant problem, notes Wang, is control of the initial stages of nanohole formation — a crucial period that can often induce defects into the solar cell.
Instead of traditional time-consuming lithography, the researchers identified a rapid, ‘maskless’ approach to producing nanoholes using silver nanoparticles. First, they deposited a nanometre-thin layer of silver onto a silicon wafer which they toughened by annealing it using a rapid-burst ultraviolet laser. Careful optimization of this procedure yielded regular arrays of silver nanospheres on top of the silicon surface, with sphere size and distribution controlled by the laser annealing conditions.
Next, the nanosphere–silicon complex was immersed into a solution of hydrogen peroxide and hydrofluoric acid — a mixture that eats away at silicon atoms directly underneath the catalytic silver nanospheres. Subsequent removal of the silver particles with acid produced the final, nanohole-infused silicon surface (see image).
The team analyzed the solar cell activity of their nanohole interfaces by coating them with a semiconducting polymer and metal electrodes. Their experiments revealed a remarkable dependence on nanohole depth: cavities deeper than one micrometer showed sharp drops in power conversion efficiency from a maximum of 8.3 per cent due to light scattering off of rougher surfaces and higher series resistance effects.
“Our simple process for making hybrid silicon nanohole devices can successfully reduce the fabrication costs which impede the solar cell industry,” says Wang. “In addition, this approach can be easily transferred to silicon thin films to develop thin-film silicon–polymer hybrid solar cells with even higher efficiency.”
1. Hong, L., Wang, X., Zheng, H., He, L., Wang, H., Yu, H. & Rusli, E. High efficiency silicon nanohole/organic heterojunction hybrid solar cell. Applied Physics Letters 104, 053104 (2014).
Lee Swee Heng | Research SEA News
Linear potentiometer LRW2/3 - Maximum precision with many measuring points
17.05.2017 | WayCon Positionsmesstechnik GmbH
First flat lens for immersion microscope provides alternative to centuries-old technique
17.05.2017 | Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences
An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.
We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...
Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.
Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...
An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...
In the race to produce a quantum computer, a number of projects are seeking a way to create quantum bits -- or qubits -- that are stable, meaning they are not much affected by changes in their environment. This normally needs highly nonlinear non-dissipative elements capable of functioning at very low temperatures.
In pursuit of this goal, researchers at EPFL's Laboratory of Photonics and Quantum Measurements LPQM (STI/SB), have investigated a nonlinear graphene-based...
Dental plaque and the viscous brown slime in drainpipes are two familiar examples of bacterial biofilms. Removing such bacterial depositions from surfaces is...
23.05.2017 | Event News
22.05.2017 | Event News
17.05.2017 | Event News
23.05.2017 | Life Sciences
23.05.2017 | Medical Engineering
23.05.2017 | Life Sciences