March 1, 2010

Strained nanowires promise better solar cells

Coat a semiconductor nanowire with another semiconductor material in the right way, and you can get more out of nanowire solar cells.

If you layer one crystalline material on another in a way that the materials' atomic structures are misaligned, the materials will be under stress. This lattice-mismatch-induced strain turns out to generate an electric field when it's produced in nanowires, according to a theoretical analysis.

The electric fields should boost the performance of nanowire solar cells by helping to separate photon-generated electrons and holes. A key variable in solar cell performance is minimizing the number of electrons and holes that recombine before they can be channeled off into useful electric currents.

Research paper:
Photovoltaics with Piezoelectric Core-Shell Nanowires
Nano Letters, published online March 1, 2010

Researchers' contact:
Hongqi Xu

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