|Research Areas & Activities Solar Energy Rational Organic Semiconductor Material Design A Pathway Towards Breakthrough Performance in Solar Cells Design and Fabrication of the First All-Carbon-Based Solar Cell Upconverting Electrodes for Improved Solar Energy Conversion Advanced Electron Transport Materials for Application in Organic Photovoltaics (OPV) Ultra-High Efficiency Thermophotovoltaic Solar Cells Using Metallic Photonic Crystals as Intermediate Absorber and Emitter Nanostructured Materials for High-Efficiency Thin Film Solar Cells Photon Enhanced Thermionic Emission (PETE) for Solar Concentrator Systems Hot Carrier Solar Cell: Implementation of the Ultimate Photovoltaic Converter Plasmonic Photovoltaics Self-sorting of Metallic Carbon Nanotubes for High Performance Large Area Low Cost Transparent Electrodes Artificial Photosynthesis: Membrane-Supported Assemblies that Use Sunlight to Split Water Lateral Nanoconcentrator Nanowire Multijunction Photovoltaic Cells Molecular Solar Cells Advanced Materials and Devices for Low-Cost and High-Performance Organic Photovoltaic Cells Inorganic Nanocomposite Solar Cells by ALD Nanostructured Silicon-Based Tandem Solar Cells Photosynthetic Bioelectricity Nanostructured Metal-Organic Composite Solar Cells Ordered Bulk Heterojunction Photovoltaic Cells Biomass Energy Hydrogen Advanced Combustion CO2 Capture CO2 Storage Advanced Materials & Catalysts Advanced Coal Advanced Transportation Advanced Electric Grid Grid Storage Other Renewables Integrated Assessment Advanced Nuclear Energy Geoengineering Exploratory Efforts All Activities Analysis Activities Technical Reports||
Nanostructured Silicon-Based Tandem Solar Cells
Start Date: September 2005
Martin A. Green and Gavin Conibeer, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia
This project will develop an innovative photovoltaic device based on integrating low-cost polycrystalline silicon thin films with higher bandgap semiconducting materials synthesized using silicon quantum dots embedded in a matrix of silicon oxide, nitride, or carbide to produce two- or three-cell tandem stacks. By capturing different energies within the solar spectrum in each cell in the stack, a significant increase in the efficiency of silicon-based thin films is anticipated without adding appreciably to large-volume manufacturing costs per unit, thus decreasing installed system costs.
The cost of thin-film solar cells using low-cost inorganic semiconductor materials, called "second generation" photovoltaics, is fundamentally limited by encapsulation and balance-of-system costs. To achieve the cost and performance levels needed to compete in the wholesale energy market, "third generation" photovoltaic technology requires not only a significant improvement in efficiency without adding appreciably to large-scale manufacturing costs, but also that it uses abundant, non-toxic, stable, and durable materials. Among the possible strategies that could meet these criteria, tandem or stack-cells of different bandgaps have been identified as having high potential for efficiency improvement, with efficiency limits of 45% and 50.5% for two- and three-cell stacks respectively. This project addresses the challenge of fabricating tandem devices from silicon-based materials. Essential to this is the development of techniques for controlling the bandgap of silicon. Carrier confinement in nanoscale structures provides such a technique. The integration of silicon nanoparticles in matrices formed from compounds of silicon allows tuning of the bandgap by exploiting the quantum effects related to their size and their distribution across the cell. Figure 1 is a schematic of the energy levels of such a silicon-based three-cell stack, with a conventional silicon cell as the lowermost cell shown on the right. Critical parameters to be controlled for tuning the absorption spectrum of the single cells include dot spacing and size, as well as fluctuations in the sizes of the dots. The geometry of the nanoparticle networks also needs to be optimized to enhance carrier transport through resonant hopping between layers in a cell.
Figure 1: Energy levels of a silicon-based three-cell stack using quantum dot superlattices for the uppermost cells. Quantum dots are embedded in a higher bandgap matrix. The two green horizontal bars represent confined minibands formed by the nanoparticle network. The energy gap between them is determined by the dot size, and their energy range depends upon the spacing between the dots, degeneracy within the silicon band structure, and fluctuations in dot size. The rectangular regions between cells represent tunnel or defect junction connections.
Figure 2: (a) Cross-sectional view TEM image of silicon quantum dot layers prepared in an oxide matrix; (b) Plan view TEM image of a single layer of silicon quantum dots showing lateral spacing.
Four main areas of activity are being followed in this effort:
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