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Low-Cost Copper Nanostructures Impart High Efficiencies to Quantum Dot Solar Cells

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journal contribution
posted on 24.06.2015, 00:00 by P. Naresh Kumar, Melepurath Deepa, Partha Ghosal
Quantum dot solar cells (QDSCs) were fabricated using low-cost Cu nanostructures and a carbon fabric as a counter electrode for the first time. Cu nanoparticles (NPs) and nanoneedles (NNs) with a face-centered cubic structure were synthesized by a hydrothermal method and electrophoretically deposited over a CdS QD sensitized titania (TiO2) electrode. Compared to Cu NPs, which increase the light absorption of a TiO2/CdS photoanode via scattering effects only in the visible region, Cu NNs are more effective for efficient far-field light scattering; they enhance the light absorption of the TiO2/CdS assembly beyond the visible to near-infrared (NIR) regions as well. The highest fluorescence quenching, lowest excited electron lifetime, and a large surface potential (deduced from Kelvin probe force microscopy (KPFM)) observed for the TiO2/CdS/Cu NN electrode compared to TiO2/CdS and TiO2/CdS/Cu NP electrodes confirm that Cu NNs also facilitate charge transport. KPFM studies also revealed a larger shift of the apparent Fermi level to more negative potentials in the TiO2/CdS/Cu NN electrode, compared to the other two electrodes (versus NHE), which results in a higher open-circuit voltage for the Cu NN based electrode. The best performing QDSC based on the TiO2/CdS/Cu NN electrode delivers a stellar power conversion efficiency (PCE) of 4.36%, greater by 56.8% and 32.1% than the PCEs produced by the cells based on TiO2/CdS and TiO2/CdS/Cu NPs, respectively. A maximum external quantum efficiency (EQE) of 58% obtained for the cell with the TiO2/CdS/Cu NN electrode and a finite EQE in the NIR region which the other two cells do not deliver are clear indicators of the enormous promise this cheap, earth-abundant Cu nanostructure holds for amplifying the solar cell response in both the visible and near-infrared regions through scattering enhancements.