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3rd Generation Solar Cells

For solar electricity to be able to economically compete with electricity produced by burning fossil fuels, the cost of current solar cells needs to be reduced and their efficiency be increased. This is the goal of research into 3rd generation solar cells. Such solar cells try to exploit new physical phenomena and manufacturing approaches to arrive at ultra-low cost solar cells with efficiencies that exceed the efficiencies for current technologies. Nanomaterials play in central role in the study of 3rd generation solar cells, since new physical effects discovered in nanometer-sized crystals, so called quantum dots, hold promise to enhance solar cell efficiencies.

The Kortshagen group focuses on research on group IV elements, including silicon and germanium, and their alloys. Not only are group IV elements among the most widely used elements in current solar cells, they are also abundant, non-toxic and environmentally benign. Plasma processes are ideally suited to produce group IV quantum dots, which are hard to produce with other techniques. The Kortshagen group focuses on the synthesis, photo-physical characterization, and integration of group IV quantum dots into experimental solar cell devices.

Work is supported by the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy through the Energy Frontier Research Center for Advance Solar Photophysics ( Image from “Hybrid solar cells from P3HT and silicon nanocrystals,” reference below.

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