Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors

Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button

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.

DOEs 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

Harris & Harris Group Notes Announcements by Its Portfolio Companies During the Third Quarter of 2016 September 30th, 2016

INVECAS to Enable ASIC Designs for Tomorrows Intelligent Systems on GLOBALFOUNDRIES' FDX Technology: INVECAS to Collaborate with GLOBALFOUNDRIES to Provide IP and End-to-End ASIC Design Services on 22FDX and 12FDX Technologies September 30th, 2016

How to power up graphene implants without frying cells: New analysis finds way to safely conduct heat from graphene to biological tissues September 30th, 2016

Innovation in Nanotechnology is Focus of Symposium: Annual event brings international experts to Northwestern Oct. 6 September 29th, 2016

Laboratories

Crystalline Fault Lines Provide Pathway for Solar Cell Current: New tomographic AFM imaging technique reveals that microstructural defects, generally thought to be detrimental, actually improve conductivity in cadmium telluride solar cells September 26th, 2016

NIST Patents Single-Photon Detector for Potential Encryption and Sensing Apps September 16th, 2016

Electron beam microscope directly writes nanoscale features in liquid with metal ink September 16th, 2016

World's most powerful X-ray takes a 'sledgehammer' to molecules September 14th, 2016

Thin films

Continuous roll-process technology for transferring and packaging flexible LSI August 29th, 2016

Self-cleaning, anti-reflective, microorganism-resistant coatings: Researchers at the UPV/EHU-University of the Basque Country are modifying surface properties of materials to obtain specific properties at a lower cost August 9th, 2016

Scientists find a way of acquiring graphene-like films from salts to boost nanoelectronics: Physicists use supercomputers to find a way of making 'imitation graphene' from salt July 30th, 2016

Cambridge Advanced Imaging Centre praises support film consistency and quality from EM Resolutions July 5th, 2016

Govt.-Legislation/Regulation/Funding/Policy

How to power up graphene implants without frying cells: New analysis finds way to safely conduct heat from graphene to biological tissues September 30th, 2016

Crystalline Fault Lines Provide Pathway for Solar Cell Current: New tomographic AFM imaging technique reveals that microstructural defects, generally thought to be detrimental, actually improve conductivity in cadmium telluride solar cells September 26th, 2016

Tattoo therapy could ease chronic disease: Rice-made nanoparticles tested at Baylor College of Medicine may help control autoimmune diseases September 23rd, 2016

PHENOMEN is a FET-Open Research Project aiming to lay the foundations a new information technology September 19th, 2016

Discoveries

How to power up graphene implants without frying cells: New analysis finds way to safely conduct heat from graphene to biological tissues September 30th, 2016

Nanosensors could help determine tumors ability to remodel tissue: Measuring enzyme levels could help doctors select appropriate treatments September 29th, 2016

Fighting cancer with sticky nanoparticles September 27th, 2016

Gold nanoparticles conjugated quercetin inhibits epithelial-mesenchymal transition, angiogenesis and invasiveness via EGFR/VEGFR-2 mediated pathway in breast cancer September 27th, 2016

Announcements

Harris & Harris Group Notes Announcements by Its Portfolio Companies During the Third Quarter of 2016 September 30th, 2016

INVECAS to Enable ASIC Designs for Tomorrows Intelligent Systems on GLOBALFOUNDRIES' FDX Technology: INVECAS to Collaborate with GLOBALFOUNDRIES to Provide IP and End-to-End ASIC Design Services on 22FDX and 12FDX Technologies September 30th, 2016

How to power up graphene implants without frying cells: New analysis finds way to safely conduct heat from graphene to biological tissues September 30th, 2016

Innovation in Nanotechnology is Focus of Symposium: Annual event brings international experts to Northwestern Oct. 6 September 29th, 2016

Energy

Cambrios at CEATEC - Japan 2016 September 29th, 2016

Crystalline Fault Lines Provide Pathway for Solar Cell Current: New tomographic AFM imaging technique reveals that microstructural defects, generally thought to be detrimental, actually improve conductivity in cadmium telluride solar cells September 26th, 2016

Researchers at the Catalan Institute of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology show that bending semiconductors generates electricity September 26th, 2016

Semiconducting inorganic double helix: New flexible semiconductor for electronics, solar technology and photo catalysis September 15th, 2016

Solar/Photovoltaic

Cambrios at CEATEC - Japan 2016 September 29th, 2016

Crystalline Fault Lines Provide Pathway for Solar Cell Current: New tomographic AFM imaging technique reveals that microstructural defects, generally thought to be detrimental, actually improve conductivity in cadmium telluride solar cells September 26th, 2016

Semiconducting inorganic double helix: New flexible semiconductor for electronics, solar technology and photo catalysis September 15th, 2016

New perovskite research discoveries may lead to solar cell, LED advances September 12th, 2016

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







Car Brands
Buy website traffic