Engineering of Nanostructured Semiconductor-sensitized Solar Cells

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Engineering of Nanostructured Semiconductor-sensitized Solar Cells


Renewable Energy Production

Global warming is threatening our planet and some fossils fuels like oil are coming close to their overall production peak. Therefore photovoltaic (PV) cells to generate electricity on a large scale –has become accepted as a future important part of the planet’s energy supply. With the rise in interest in nanoscience and nanotechnology over the past couple of decades, a number of different nanostructured PV cell concepts are being actively researched, all of which are potentially cheap – in money and in energy – to make. One of these PV concepts that have attracted increasing interest is semiconductor-sensitized solar cells (SSSCs). The SSSC is a combination of many components that require extensive study, not just by themselves but more importantly in conjunction with their contacting components. These components are: absorber, porous oxide, hole conductor. These are the three fundamental components. However, there are other also very important (presently-recognized) components like the interface layers (buffer layers/passivation layers, adsorbed molecules) and SCN- ion treatment of the absorber before hole conductor deposition. Most of these components will be prepared by various solution techniques (chemical bath deposition, electrodeposition, spin coating, spray) and also by atomic layer deposition (ALD). ALD will be particularly important for ultra thin coatings and for very conformal coatings. We will be using a combination of kinetic and energetic techniques to correlate charge transfer rates, cell energetics (band alignments) and cell performance. These measurements are intended to guide us in modifying cells under study. Since there are so many unknowns in these systems, much of the progress up to now has been based on experience and intuition. We hope that we can gradually steer the project towards a greater emphasis on well-understood principles that direct us how logically to modify cell structures/preparation. The kinetic and energetic measurements will be carried out on selected systems. Thus we will do a complete study of well-performing systems to help improve these systems. Even more important, we will do such studies with poorly-performing systems with the aim to understand why they perform badly. This will be done both with systems that are known to perform poorly and also with poor samples of systems that usually/often perform well (reproducibility problem). Completed cells that appear promising will be subjected to stability testing and also scale-up studies.

The objectives of this project are: 1- To parameterize the different phases involved in the structure of the proposed cells so that highest efficiency is accomplished. 2- To understand more about how the cells operate and, of course, to parallel this understanding with improvement in their efficiency especially that these cells are composed of at least 3 separate phases which means more interfaces, and a more complicated system to understand (although probably cheap to make). This understanding will help us achieving better efficiencies by proper choices of the different involved parameter.

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