University of Oregon microscope puts spotlight on the surface structure of quantum dots for designing new solar devices
A potential path to identify imperfections and improve the quality of nanomaterials for use in next-generation solar cells has emerged from a collaboration of University of Oregon and industry researchers.
University of Oregon doctoral student Christian Gervasi, left, and Thomas Allen of VoxtelNano led a university-industry collaboration to create atomic-scale maps of the density of states in individual nanocrystals with a specially designed microscope. The maps promise a route to next-generation solar cells.
Credit: University of Oregon
To increase light-harvesting efficiency of solar cells beyond silicon's limit of about 29 percent, manufacturers have used layers of chemically synthesized semiconductor nanocrystals. Properties of quantum dots that are produced are manipulated by controlling the synthetic process and surface chemical structure.
This process, however, creates imperfections at the surface-forming trap states that limit device performance. Until recently, improvements in production quality have relied on feedback provided by traditional characterization techniques that probe average properties of large numbers of quantum dots.
"We want to use these materials in real devices, but they are not yet optimized," said co-author Christian F. Gervasi, a UO doctoral student.
In their study, detailed in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers investigated electronic states of lead sulfide nanocrystals. By using a specially designed scanning tunneling microscope, researchers created atomic-scale maps of the density of states in individual nanocrystals. This allowed them to pinpoint the energies and localization of charge traps associated with defects in the nanocrystal surface structure that are detrimental to electron propagation.
The microscope was designed in the lab of co-author George V. Nazin, a professor in the UO Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. Its use was described in a previous paper in the same journal, in which Nazin's lab members were able to visualize the internal structures of electronic waves trapped by external electrostatic charges in carbon nanotubes.
"This technology is really cool," said Peter Palomaki, senior scientist for Voxtel Nanophotonics and co-author on the new paper. "When you really dig down into the science at a very fundamental level, this problem has always been an open-ended question. This paper is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of being able to understand what's going on."
The insight, he said, should help manufacturers tweak their synthesis of nanocrystals used in a variety of electronic devices. Co-author Thomas Allen, also a senior scientist at Voxtel, agreed. The project began after Allen heard Gervasi and Nazin discussing the microscope's capabilities.
"We wanted to see what the microscope could accomplish, and it turns out that it gives us a lot of information about the trap states and the depths of trap states in our quantum dots," said Allen, who joined Voxtel after completing the Industrial Internship Program in the UO's Materials Science Institute. "The information will help us fine-tune the ligand chemistry to make better devices for photovoltaics, detectors and sensors."
The trap states seen by the microscope in this project may explain why nanoparticle-based solar cells have not yet been commercialized, Nazin said.
"Nanoparticles are not always stable. It is a fundamental problem. When you synthesize something at this scale you don't necessarily get the same structure for all of the quantum dots. Working at the atomic scale can produce large variations in the electronic states. Our tool allows us to see these states directly and allow us to provide feedback on the materials."
Sony Corp. supported the research. Quantum dots were synthesized by VoxtelNanophotonics, a division of Voxtel Inc., which has research space in the UO's Lorry Lokey Laboratories. The microscope, which was described in a recent paper in the journal Review of Scientific Instruments, was built with funding from the National Science Foundation (grant DMR-0960211).
Co-authors with Gervasi, Allen, Palomaki and Nazin are Dmitry A. Kislitsyn and Jason D. Hackley, both doctoral students, and Ryuichiro Maruyama, a courtesy research associate in the Nanoscale Open Research Initiative of the UO's Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.
Sources: George Nazin, assistant professor of physical chemistry, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, 541-346-2017, firstname.lastname@example.org; Christian Gervasi, doctoral student, 541-346-8150, email@example.com; Peter Palomaki, senior scientist, VoxtelNano, a division of Voxtel Inc., 541-346-8131, firstname.lastname@example.org; and Thomas Allen, senior scientist, VoxtelNano, a division of Voxtel Inc., 541-346-8131
Note: The University of Oregon is equipped with an on-campus television studio with a point-of-origin Vyvx connection, which provides broadcast-quality video to networks worldwide via fiber optic network. In addition, there is video access to satellite uplink, and audio access to an ISDN codec for broadcast-quality radio interviews.
Previous release: Special UO microscope captures defects in nanotubes: http://uonews.uoregon.edu/archive/news-release/2014/10/special-uo-microscope-captures-defects-nanotubes
New paper abstract: http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jz5019465
About Voxtel: http://voxtel-inc.com/about-voxtel/
Nazin faculty page: http://chemistry.uoregon.edu/profile/gnazin/
Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry: http://chemistry.uoregon.edu/
About the microscope: http://scitation.aip.org/content/aip/journal/rsi/85/10/10.1063/1.4897139
Jim Barlow | EurekAlert!
Research finds new molecular structures in boron-based nanoclusters
13.07.2018 | Brown University
3D-Printing: Support structures to prevent vibrations in post-processing of thin-walled parts
12.07.2018 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Produktionstechnologie IPT
For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.
To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...
For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.
Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...
Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.
A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...
Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.
"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....
Ultra-short, high-intensity X-ray flashes open the door to the foundations of chemical reactions. Free-electron lasers generate these kinds of pulses, but there is a catch: the pulses vary in duration and energy. An international research team has now presented a solution: Using a ring of 16 detectors and a circularly polarized laser beam, they can determine both factors with attosecond accuracy.
Free-electron lasers (FELs) generate extremely short and intense X-ray flashes. Researchers can use these flashes to resolve structures with diameters on the...
13.07.2018 | Event News
12.07.2018 | Event News
03.07.2018 | Event News
13.07.2018 | Event News
13.07.2018 | Materials Sciences
13.07.2018 | Life Sciences