Co-authored by Penn State electrical engineer Noel Giebink with lead author Bethany Bernardo, an undergraduate in his group, and colleagues at IMEC in Belgium, Argonne National Lab, Northwestern, and Princeton, the paper suggests design rules for making more efficient solar cells in the future.
Giebink, Penn State
An electron wave function, indicated by orange shading, spreads across several nanocrystalline fullerene molecules in this representation of an organic solar cell heterojunction.
Organic solar cells currently have a top efficiency of approximately 10 percent in the laboratory, much less than inorganic single crystal silicon. One of the challenges to realizing efficient organic cells lies in separating the strongly bound pairs made up of a negatively charged electron and its positively charged hole that result from light absorption, collectively referred to as an exciton. The electron and hole need to be separated in order to make a current.
The way this is done is by creating a heterojunction, which is two different organic semiconductors next to each other, one of which likes to give up an electron and the other which accepts the electron, thereby splitting the original exciton into an electron and hole residing on nearby molecules. A long-standing question in the field, however, is how the nearby electron and hole – still strongly attracted to each other at this stage – manage to separate completely in order to generate current with the efficiency observed in most solar cells.
Over the past few years, a new perspective has proposed that the high separation efficiency relies on a quantum effect – the electron or hole can exist in a wavelike state spread out over several nearby molecules at the same time. When the wave function of one of the carriers collapses at a location far enough away from its partner, the charges can separate more easily. Giebink and colleagues’ work provide compelling new evidence to support this interpretation and identify nanocrystallinity of the common acceptor material made of C60 molecules (also known as fullerenes or buckyballs) as the key that allows this delocalization effect to take place.
This local crystalline order appears to be critical to efficient photocurrent generation in organic solar cells, says Giebink. “A common view in the community is that it takes a bunch of excess energy to break apart the exciton, which meant that there had to be a large energy level difference between the donor and acceptor materials. But that big energy offset reduces the voltage of the solar cell. Our work dispels this perceived tradeoff in light of the impact that wavefunction delocalization and local crystallinity have on the charge separation process. This result should help people design new molecules and optimize donor and acceptor morphologies that help increase solar cell voltage without sacrificing current.”
The team used various luminescence and electroabsorption spectroscopic techniques together with X-ray diffraction to reach their conclusion. Their results, detailed in the paper titled “Delocalization and dielectric screening of charge transfer states in organic photovoltaic cells,” will provide other groups with a better understanding of charge separation as they design and model more efficient organic solar cells.
Noel (Chris) Giebink is assistant professor of electrical engineering and a faculty member in the Materials Research Institute at Penn State. He can be contacted at email@example.com.
Noel (Chris) Giebink | Newswise
Energy hybrid: Battery meets super capacitor
01.12.2016 | Technische Universität Graz
Tailor-Made Membranes for the Environment
30.11.2016 | Forschungszentrum Jülich
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water
In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...
The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering
02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science
02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy