June 15, 2009

Coated nanocrystals could boost thin-film solar cells

Coat tiny semiconductor crystals with the right material and you have a route to inexpensive, high performance thin-film solar cells.

Nanocrystals are an inexpensive alternative to bulk silicon and other semiconductor materials for making solar cells and other electronic devices, but the crystals must be coated to keep them from clumping together. Most approaches involve coating the crystals with organic molecules, but these are electronically insulating, which lowers the performance of devices made with the crystals.

Another approach is coating nanocrystals with molecular metal chalcogenides -- metal ions combined with sulfur, selenium or tellurium -- instead of organic molecules. Gently heating the molecular metal chalcogenides makes them semiconducting. The nanocrystals remain dispersed but electricity flows more easily between them.

The molecular-metal-chalcogenide-coated nanocrystal method could improve the performance of large solar cells made by inexpensive liquid processes.

Research paper:
Colloidal Nanocrystals with Molecular Metal Chalcogenide Surface Ligands
Science, June 12, 2009

Researchers' contact:
Dmitri V. Talapin

Related stories and briefs:
Copper-based solar cells made easier -- related research

Back to ERN June 15, 2009



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