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Now, make solar cell from any semiconductor

Posted: 30 Jul 2012     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:solar cells  metal oxides  sulfides  phosphides  electric field 

Researchers at Berkeley Lab have developed a new technology that could enable low-cost, high efficiency solar cells to be made from virtually any semiconductor material.

The new technology, called Screening-engineered field-effect photovoltaics or SFPV, opens the door to the use of plentiful, relatively inexpensive semiconductors, such as the promising metal oxides, sulfides and phosphides, that have been considered unsuitable for solar cells because it is so difficult to tailor their properties by chemical means, said researchers.

"It's time we put bad materials to good use," says physicist Alex Zettl, who led this research along with colleague Feng Wang. "Our technology allows us to sidestep the difficulty in chemically tailoring many earth abundant, non-toxic semiconductors and instead tailor these materials simply by applying an electric field."

The researchers said that many abundant materials can instead be tailored for solar power applications by applying an electric field.

With the SFPV technology, a partially screening top electrode lets the gate electric field sufficiently penetrate the electrode and more uniformly modulate the semiconductor carrier concentration and type to induce a p-n junction. "This enables the creation of high quality p-n junctions in semiconductors that are difficult if not impossible to dope by conventional chemical methods."

"Our technology requires only electrode and gate deposition, without the need for high-temperature chemical doping, ion implantation, or other expensive or damaging processes," said lead author William Regan.

The researchers also demonstrated the SFPV effect in a self-gating configuration, in which the gate was powered internally by the electrical activity of the cell itself.

"The self-gating configuration eliminates the need for an external gate power source, which will simplify the practical implementation of SFPV devices. Additionally, the gate can serve a dual role as an antireflection coating, a feature already common and necessary for high efficiency photovoltaics."

The research paper titled 'Screening-Engineered Field-Effect Solar Cells' has been published in the journal Nano Letters.

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