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New material approach should increase solar cell efficiency

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Posted April 24, 2013
The correlated electron "metal" SrRuO3 exhibits strong visible slight absorption. Overlaid here on the AM1.5G solar spectrum, it can be seen that SrRuO3 absorbs more than 75 times more light than TiO2. The structural, chemical, and electronic compatibility of TiO2 and SrRuO3 further enables the fabrication of heterojunctions with exciting photovoltaic and photocatalytic response driven by hot-carrier injection. Credit: Lane Martin, University of Illinois

The correlated electron “metal” SrRuO3 exhibits strong visible slight absorption. Overlaid here on the AM1.5G solar spectrum, it can be seen that SrRuO3 absorbs more than 75 times more light than TiO2. The structural, chemical, and electronic compatibility of TiO2 and SrRuO3 further enables the fabrication of heterojunctions with exciting photovoltaic and photocatalytic response driven by hot-carrier injection. Credit: Lane Martin, University of Illinois

A University of Illinois research group brought together aspects of condensed matter physics, semiconductor device engineering, and photochemistry to develop a new form of high-performance solar photocatalyst based on the combination of the TiO2 (titanium dioxide) and other “metallic” oxides that greatly enhance the visible light absorption and promote more efficient utilization of the solar spectrum for energy applications.

“When designing next generation solar energy conversion systems, we must first develop ways to more efficiently utilize the solar spectrum,” explained Lane Martin, whose research group at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has done just that.

“This is a fundamentally new way of approaching these matters,” said Martin, who is an assistant professor of materials science and engineering (MatSE) at Illinois. “From these materials we can imagine carbon-neutral energy production of clean-burning fuels, waste water purification and remediation, and much more.”

Martin’s research group brought together aspects of condensed matter physics,semiconductor device engineering, and photochemistry to develop a new form of high-performance solar photocatalyst based on the combination of the TiO2 (titanium dioxide) and other “metallic” oxides that greatly enhance the visible light absorption and promote more efficient utilization of the solar spectrum for energy applications. Their paper, “Strong Visible-Light Absorption and Hot-Carrier Injection in TiO2/SrRuO3 Heterostructures,” appears in the journal Advanced Energy Materials.

According to Martin, the primary feature limiting the performance of oxide-based photovoltaic and/or photocatalytic systems has traditionally been the poor absorption of visible light in these often wide band gap materials. One candidate oxide material for such applications is anatase TiO2, which is arguably the most widely-studied photocatalyst due to its chemical stability, non-toxicity, low-cost, and excellent band alignment to several oxidation-reduction reactions. As the backbone of dye-sensitized solar cells, however, the presence of a light-absorbing dye accounts for a large band gap which limits efficient usage of all but the UV portion of sunlight.

Read more: Phys.org

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