Nanotechnology Now







Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button


DHgate

Home > Press > Atomic switcheroo explains origins of thin-film solar cell mystery

Cross-sectional electron beam-induced current maps show the difference in cadmium telluride solar cells before (pictured above) and after (below) cadmium chloride treatment. The increased brightness after treatment indicates higher current collection at the grain boundaries.
Cross-sectional electron beam-induced current maps show the difference in cadmium telluride solar cells before (pictured above) and after (below) cadmium chloride treatment. The increased brightness after treatment indicates higher current collection at the grain boundaries.

Abstract:
Treating cadmium-telluride (CdTe) solar cell materials with cadmium-chloride improves their efficiency, but researchers have not fully understood why. Now, an atomic-scale examination of the thin-film solar cells led by the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory has answered this decades-long debate about the materials' photovoltaic efficiency increase after treatment.

Atomic switcheroo explains origins of thin-film solar cell mystery

Oak Ridge, TN | Posted on April 23rd, 2014

A research team from ORNL, the University of Toledo and DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory used electron microscopy and computational simulations to explore the physical origins of the unexplained treatment process. The results are published in Physical Review Letters (PRL).

Thin-film CdTe solar cells are considered a potential rival to silicon-based photovoltaic systems because of their theoretically low cost per power output and ease of fabrication. Their comparatively low historical efficiency in converting sunlight into energy, however, has limited the technology's widespread use, especially for home systems.

Research in the 1980s showed that treating CdTe thin films with cadmium-chloride significantly raises the cell's efficiency, but scientists have been unable to determine the underlying causes. ORNL's Chen Li, first author on the PRL study, explains that the answer lay in investigating the material at an atomic level.

"We knew that chlorine was responsible for this magical effect, but we needed to find out where it went in the material's structure," Li said. "Only by understanding the structure can we understand what's wrong in this solar cell -- why the efficiency is not high enough, and how can we push it further."

By comparing the solar cells before and after chlorine treatment, the researchers realized that atom-scale grain boundaries were implicated in the enhanced performance. Grain boundaries are tiny defects that that normally act as roadblocks to efficiency, because they inhibit carrier collection which greatly reduces the solar cell power.

Using state of the art electron microscopy techniques to study the thin films' structure and chemical composition after treatment, the researchers found that chlorine atoms replaced tellurium atoms within the grain boundaries. This atomic substitution creates local electric fields at the grain boundaries that boost the material's photovoltaic performance instead of damaging it.

The research team's finding, in addition to providing a long-awaited explanation, could be used to guide engineering of higher-efficiency CdTe solar cells. Controlling the grain boundary structure, says Li, is a new direction that could help raise the cell efficiencies closer to the theoretical maximum of 32 percent light-to-energy conversion. Currently, the record CdTe cell efficiency is only 20.4 percent.

"We think that if all the grain boundaries in a thin film material could be aligned in same direction, it could improve cell efficiency even further," Li said.

The team's research appears as "Grain-Boundary-Enhanced Carrier Collection in CdTe Solar Cells." Coauthors are ORNL's Chen Li, Jonathan Poplawsky, Mark Oxley and Andrew Lupini; University of Toledo's Yelong Wu, Naba Paudel, Wanjian Yin and Yanfa Yan; University of Tennessee's Stephen Pennycook; University of Manchester's Sarah Haigh; University of Oxford's Timothy Pennycook; and NREL's Mowafak Al-Jassim. Li and Oxley hold joint appointments at Vanderbilt University.

The research was supported by the Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy through the SunShot Initiative and the Office of Basic Energy Sciences. The work was sponsored in part by the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and through a user project supported by ORNL's Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences (CNMS). This research used resources of the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center. Yan acknowledges support from the Ohio Research Scholar Program.

CNMS is one of the five DOE Nanoscale Science Research Centers, NSRCs, supported by the DOE Office of Science, as premier national user facilities for interdisciplinary research at the nanoscale. Together the NSRCs comprise a suite of complementary facilities that provide researchers with state-of-the-art capabilities to fabricate, process, characterize and model nanoscale materials, and constitute the largest infrastructure investment of the National Nanotechnology Initiative. The NSRCs are located at DOE's Argonne, Brookhaven, Lawrence Berkeley, Oak Ridge and Sandia and Los Alamos national laboratories. For more information about the DOE NSRCs, please visit http://science.energy.gov/bes/suf/user-facilities/nanoscale-science-research-centers/.

####

About DOE/Oak Ridge National Laboratory
ORNL is managed by UT-Battelle for the Department of Energy's Office of Science.

DOE’s Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit science.energy.gov.

For more information, please click here

Contacts:
Morgan McCorkle

865-574-7308

Copyright © DOE/Oak Ridge National Laboratory

If you have a comment, please Contact us.

Issuers of news releases, not 7th Wave, Inc. or Nanotechnology Now, are solely responsible for the accuracy of the content.

Bookmark:
Delicious Digg Newsvine Google Yahoo Reddit Magnoliacom Furl Facebook

Related News Press

News and information

Black phosphorus is new 'wonder material' for improving optical communication March 3rd, 2015

Heightened Efficiency in Purification of Wastewater Using Nanomembranes March 3rd, 2015

Researchers turn unzipped nanotubes into possible alternative for platinum: Aerogel catalyst shows promise for fuel cells March 2nd, 2015

Important step towards quantum computing: Metals at atomic scale March 2nd, 2015

New Hopes for Treatment of Intestine Cancer by Edible Nanodrug March 2nd, 2015

Laboratories

Researchers turn unzipped nanotubes into possible alternative for platinum: Aerogel catalyst shows promise for fuel cells March 2nd, 2015

First detailed microscopy evidence of bacteria at the lower size limit of life: Berkeley Lab research provides comprehensive description of ultra-small bacteria February 28th, 2015

Dendrite eraser: New electrolyte rids batteries of short-circuiting fibers: Solution enables a battery with both high efficiency & current density February 24th, 2015

Researchers synthesize material for efficient plasmonic devices in mid-infrared range February 16th, 2015

Thin films

Researchers enable solar cells to use more sunlight February 25th, 2015

Detecting defects at the nanoscale will profit solar panel production: Researcher Mohamed Elrawemi develops new technologies for defects in thin films, vital in products as printed electronics and solar panels February 24th, 2015

Govt.-Legislation/Regulation/Funding/Policy

Black phosphorus is new 'wonder material' for improving optical communication March 3rd, 2015

New nanodevice defeats drug resistance: Tiny particles embedded in gel can turn off drug-resistance genes, then release cancer drugs March 2nd, 2015

Forbidden quantum leaps possible with high-res spectroscopy March 2nd, 2015

Researchers turn unzipped nanotubes into possible alternative for platinum: Aerogel catalyst shows promise for fuel cells March 2nd, 2015

Discoveries

Black phosphorus is new 'wonder material' for improving optical communication March 3rd, 2015

Heightened Efficiency in Purification of Wastewater Using Nanomembranes March 3rd, 2015

New nanodevice defeats drug resistance: Tiny particles embedded in gel can turn off drug-resistance genes, then release cancer drugs March 2nd, 2015

Breakthrough in OLED technology March 2nd, 2015

Announcements

Black phosphorus is new 'wonder material' for improving optical communication March 3rd, 2015

Heightened Efficiency in Purification of Wastewater Using Nanomembranes March 3rd, 2015

Researchers turn unzipped nanotubes into possible alternative for platinum: Aerogel catalyst shows promise for fuel cells March 2nd, 2015

Important step towards quantum computing: Metals at atomic scale March 2nd, 2015

Energy

UC research partnership explores how to best harness solar power March 2nd, 2015

New nanowire structure absorbs light efficiently: Dual-type nanowire arrays can be used in applications such as LEDs and solar cells February 25th, 2015

Learning by eye: Silicon micro-funnels increase the efficiency of solar cells February 25th, 2015

Magnetic nanoparticles enhance performance of solar cells X-ray study points the way to higher energy yields February 25th, 2015

Solar/Photovoltaic

UC research partnership explores how to best harness solar power March 2nd, 2015

New nanowire structure absorbs light efficiently: Dual-type nanowire arrays can be used in applications such as LEDs and solar cells February 25th, 2015

Learning by eye: Silicon micro-funnels increase the efficiency of solar cells February 25th, 2015

Magnetic nanoparticles enhance performance of solar cells X-ray study points the way to higher energy yields February 25th, 2015

NanoNews-Digest
The latest news from around the world, FREE




  Premium Products
NanoNews-Custom
Only the news you want to read!
 Learn More
NanoTech-Transfer
University Technology Transfer & Patents
 Learn More
NanoStrategies
Full-service, expert consulting
 Learn More










ASP
Nanotechnology Now Featured Books




NNN

The Hunger Project







© Copyright 1999-2015 7th Wave, Inc. All Rights Reserved PRIVACY POLICY :: CONTACT US :: STATS :: SITE MAP :: ADVERTISE