In my Sept. 20, 2011 posting, I featured an item about Ted Sargent ‘s (University of Toronto, Canada) work on colloidal quantum dot films. These films have now been certified as the world’s most efficient. There seems to be a lot of excitement given that these films have achieved a 7% efficiency rating. From the July 30, 2012 news item by Will Soutter on Azonano,
A team of scientists from the King Abdullah University of Science & Technology (KAUST) and University of Toronto (U of T) headed by Ted Sargent, an U of T Engineering Professor, has achieved a significant progress in the advancement of colloidal quantum dot (CQD) films, which in turn results in a CQD solar cell with an unprecedented efficiency of 7%.
The July 30, 2012 news release from the University of Toronto provides more detail,
“Previously, quantum dot solar cells have been limited by the large internal surface areas of the nanoparticles in the film, which made extracting electricity difficult,” said Dr. Susanna Thon, a lead co-author of the paper. “Our breakthrough was to use a combination of organic and inorganic chemistry to completely cover all of the exposed surfaces.”
The U of T cell represents a 37% increase in efficiency over the previous certified record. In order to improve efficiency, the researchers needed a way to both reduce the number of “traps” for electrons associated with poor surface quality while simultaneously ensuring their films were very dense to absorb as much light as possible. The solution was a so-called “hybrid passivation” scheme.
“By introducing small chlorine atoms immediately after synthesizing the dots, we’re able to patch the previously unreachable nooks and crannies that lead to electron traps,” explained doctoral student and lead co-author Alex Ip. “We follow that by using short organic linkers to bind quantum dots in the film closer together.”
Work led by Professor Aram Amassian of KAUST showed that the organic ligand exchange was necessary to achieve the densest film.
“The KAUST group used state-of-the-art synchrotron methods with sub-nanometer resolution to discern the structure of the films and prove that the hybrid passivation method led to the densest films with the closest-packed nanoparticles,” stated Professor Amassian.
I think the excitement over 7% indicates just how much hard work the researchers have accomplished to achieve this efficiency. It reminds me of reading about the early development of electricity (Power struggles; Scientific authority and the creation of practical electricity before Edison by Michael Brian Schiffer) where accomplishments we would now consider minuscule built careers.