Researchers at the Vienna University of Technology, together with colleagues from the United States and Germany, used computer simulations to show how the unique electrical properties of a new class of materials known as layered oxide heterostructures could potentially be used to create new types of efficiently creating ultra-thin solar cells.
New materials are created by combining a single atomic scale layers of different oxides. In combination or in the form of a stack, these heterostructures display substantially different electrical properties than one single oxide. After studying the structure in a large-scale computer simulation, a team of researchers concluded that the development of layered oxide heterostructures has great potential for obtaining solar energy in cells.
We all know that solar cells are based on the photoelectric effect. When one photon is absorbed, it can allow an electron, so many negatively charged particles gradually appear, which under certain conditions come into a subsequent movement, and an electric current appears. Electrons leave their place in order to hit positively charged regions, or “holes”. Both negatively charged electrons, as well as openings, contribute to the production of electric current.
Ilya Assmann states: “If these electrons and holes recombine cells, and do not go into positively charged areas, then nothing happens and energy cannot be used. An important advantage of the new material is that inside it there is an electric field that separates electrons and holes. ”
Conventional silicon solar cells traditionally face one problem. Which is that they require the use of metal wires on their surface in order to collect charge carriers. These wires are necessary for the operation of the solar battery, they also block some of the light from entering the cell, thereby reducing efficiency. Unlike oxides, which are used to create a new material, silicon solar cells are insulators.
The spectrum of photons collected from solar cells is converted into electric current at different speeds. For different parts of the light spectrum and different materials, they work better than others. That is why multi-connection solar cells can achieve high conversion rates. TU Vienna researchers say that by choosing the right chemicals, the oxides of the heterostructure can be configured to work under natural light with different parts of the spectrum that are simultaneously absorbed through different layers. It was already investigated that some of the promising oxides are contained in such elements Lanthanum and Vanadium.
The research results will now be used to design and build new solar cells for testing. Scientists hope that the cells of the structures based on layered oxide heterostructures will be able to provide impetus for the production of solar energy and are working hard on this.
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