Nanostructured Oxides for Quantum Conversion of Solar Energy:
Low cost, high efficiency solar conversion, self-window cleaning and light management
Arie Zaban1, David Cahen2, Micha Asscher3, Amir Natan4, Yaakov Tischler1, Dan Major1, Hanoch Senderowitz1, Igor Lubomirsky2, Dan Oron2, Gary Hodes2, Roie Yerushalmi3
1Bar-Ilan University, 2Weizmann Institute of Science, 3Hebrew University, 4Tel-Aviv University
Metal oxides (MOs) are stable, non-toxic, abundant materials that can be manufactured at low cost under ambient conditions. Consequently, metal oxide-based devices are generally inexpensive, very stable and environmentally safe – all important requirements for macro-electronic applications.
From the optical point of view, many MOs are suitable to photovoltaic (PV) applications. However, their inefficient electronic properties – i.e., short lifetime in the excited state, and low mobility as carriers of electronic charge – has thus far prevented MOs from being used as solar cell absorbers.
In addition to applications related to direct solar energy conversion, MOs offer the possibility of using part of the available radiation for self-cleaning. MOs can also serve as optical conduits for low-level concentration of solar radiation, or improved light collection. In practice, however, the known materials do not embody the potential inherent in the properties of MOs.
The goal of the “Nanostructured Oxide Solar Energy Conversion” FTA is to find new MO materials, structures and concepts that overcome limitations of oxides for solar energy applications, thereby enabling efficient, low-cost, and durable quantum conversion of solar energy into electrical and/or chemical energy.
Our approach involves existing and new MOs and focuses on new stoichiometries (typically ternary and above), ion exchange, doping and amorphous composites, as well as multi-component bulk material of nano domains that utilize grain boundary effects to improve MOs' electronic properties.
From the industrial point of view, we envision printing/spraying/chemical-bath based deposition of solar cells on commercial glass substrates. The substrates fabricated by these low cost methods will provide self-cleaning, as well as enhanced light collection and utilization functionalities.
Within the comprehensive approach to solar quantum conversion presented above, each of the specific targets should lead to important stand-alone contributions to the relevant industries. Our approach involves a systematic search via combinatorial material science of new MOs, their experimental characterization, "big data" compilation of advanced database and mining tools, and high-throughput theoretical modeling. This will be invaluable for advanced R&D in the emerging nanotechnology-related fields of macroelectronics, optoelectronics and optics.