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1.  Enhancing Solar Cell Efficiencies through 1-D Nanostructures 
Nanoscale Research Letters  2008;4(1):1-10.
The current global energy problem can be attributed to insufficient fossil fuel supplies and excessive greenhouse gas emissions resulting from increasing fossil fuel consumption. The huge demand for clean energy potentially can be met by solar-to-electricity conversions. The large-scale use of solar energy is not occurring due to the high cost and inadequate efficiencies of existing solar cells. Nanostructured materials have offered new opportunities to design more efficient solar cells, particularly one-dimensional (1-D) nanomaterials for enhancing solar cell efficiencies. These 1-D nanostructures, including nanotubes, nanowires, and nanorods, offer significant opportunities to improve efficiencies of solar cells by facilitating photon absorption, electron transport, and electron collection; however, tremendous challenges must be conquered before the large-scale commercialization of such cells. This review specifically focuses on the use of 1-D nanostructures for enhancing solar cell efficiencies. Other nanostructured solar cells or solar cells based on bulk materials are not covered in this review. Major topics addressed include dye-sensitized solar cells, quantum-dot-sensitized solar cells, and p-n junction solar cells.
doi:10.1007/s11671-008-9200-y
PMCID: PMC2893966
Solar cells; Nanowires; Nanotubes; Nanorods; Quantum dots; Hybrid nanostructures
2.  An integrated approach to realizing high-performance liquid-junction quantum dot sensitized solar cells 
Nature Communications  2013;4:2887.
Solution-processed semiconductor quantum dot solar cells offer a path towards both reduced fabrication cost and higher efficiency enabled by novel processes such as hot-electron extraction and carrier multiplication. Here we use a new class of low-cost, low-toxicity CuInSexS2−x quantum dots to demonstrate sensitized solar cells with certified efficiencies exceeding 5%. Among other material and device design improvements studied, use of a methanol-based polysulfide electrolyte results in a particularly dramatic enhancement in photocurrent and reduced series resistance. Despite the high vapour pressure of methanol, the solar cells are stable for months under ambient conditions, which is much longer than any previously reported quantum dot sensitized solar cell. This study demonstrates the large potential of CuInSexS2−x quantum dots as active materials for the realization of low-cost, robust and efficient photovoltaics as well as a platform for investigating various advanced concepts derived from the unique physics of the nanoscale size regime.
Although quantum dots are a promising alternative to dyes in sensitised solar cells, most are based on toxic heavy metals. McDaniel et al. demonstrate devices made with low-cost copper-based quantum dots that achieve certified efficiencies unprecedented for quantum dot sensitized solar cells.
doi:10.1038/ncomms3887
PMCID: PMC3863971  PMID: 24322379
3.  The design, fabrication, and photocatalytic utility of nanostructured semiconductors: focus on TiO2-based nanostructures 
Recent advances in basic fabrication techniques of TiO2-based nanomaterials such as nanoparticles, nanowires, nanoplatelets, and both physical- and solution-based techniques have been adopted by various research groups around the world. Our research focus has been mainly on various deposition parameters used for fabricating nanostructured materials, including TiO2-organic/inorganic nanocomposite materials. Technically, TiO2 shows relatively high reactivity under ultraviolet light, the energy of which exceeds the band gap of TiO2. The development of photocatalysts exhibiting high reactivity under visible light allows the main part of the solar spectrum to be used. Visible light-activated TiO2 could be prepared by doping or sensitizing. As far as doping of TiO2 is concerned, in obtaining tailored material with improved properties, metal and nonmetal doping has been performed in the context of improved photoactivity. Nonmetal doping seems to be more promising than metal doping. TiO2 represents an effective photocatalyst for water and air purification and for self-cleaning surfaces. Additionally, it can be used as an antibacterial agent because of its strong oxidation activity and superhydrophilicity. Therefore, applications of TiO2 in terms of photocatalytic activities are discussed here. The basic mechanisms of the photoactivities of TiO2 and nanostructures are considered alongside band structure engineering and surface modification in nanostructured TiO2 in the context of doping. The article reviews the basic structural, optical, and electrical properties of TiO2, followed by detailed fabrication techniques of 0-, 1-, and quasi-2-dimensional TiO2 nanomaterials. Applications and future directions of nanostructured TiO2 are considered in the context of various photoinduced phenomena such as hydrogen production, electricity generation via dye-sensitized solar cells, photokilling and self-cleaning effect, photo-oxidation of organic pollutant, wastewater management, and organic synthesis.
doi:10.2147/NSA.S9040
PMCID: PMC3781710  PMID: 24198485
TiO2 nanostructure; fabrication techniques; doping in TiO2; TiO2-assisted photoactivity; solar hydrogen; TiO2-based dye-sensitized solar cells; TiO2 self-cleaning; organic synthesis
4.  Silicon and Germanium Nanostructures for Photovoltaic Applications: Ab-Initio Results 
Nanoscale Research Letters  2010;5(10):1637-1649.
Actually, most of the electric energy is being produced by fossil fuels and great is the search for viable alternatives. The most appealing and promising technology is photovoltaics. It will become truly mainstream when its cost will be comparable to other energy sources. One way is to significantly enhance device efficiencies, for example by increasing the number of band gaps in multijunction solar cells or by favoring charge separation in the devices. This can be done by using cells based on nanostructured semiconductors. In this paper, we will present ab-initio results of the structural, electronic and optical properties of (1) silicon and germanium nanoparticles embedded in wide band gap materials and (2) mixed silicon-germanium nanowires. We show that theory can help in understanding the microscopic processes important for devices performances. In particular, we calculated for embedded Si and Ge nanoparticles the dependence of the absorption threshold on size and oxidation, the role of crystallinity and, in some cases, the recombination rates, and we demonstrated that in the case of mixed nanowires, those with a clear interface between Si and Ge show not only a reduced quantum confinement effect but display also a natural geometrical separation between electron and hole.
doi:10.1007/s11671-010-9688-9
PMCID: PMC2956023  PMID: 21076696
Silicon; Germanium; Nanocrystals; Nanowires; Nanophotonics; Photovoltaics
5.  Silicon and Germanium Nanostructures for Photovoltaic Applications: Ab-Initio Results 
Nanoscale Research Letters  2010;5(10):1637-1649.
Actually, most of the electric energy is being produced by fossil fuels and great is the search for viable alternatives. The most appealing and promising technology is photovoltaics. It will become truly mainstream when its cost will be comparable to other energy sources. One way is to significantly enhance device efficiencies, for example by increasing the number of band gaps in multijunction solar cells or by favoring charge separation in the devices. This can be done by using cells based on nanostructured semiconductors. In this paper, we will present ab-initio results of the structural, electronic and optical properties of (1) silicon and germanium nanoparticles embedded in wide band gap materials and (2) mixed silicon-germanium nanowires. We show that theory can help in understanding the microscopic processes important for devices performances. In particular, we calculated for embedded Si and Ge nanoparticles the dependence of the absorption threshold on size and oxidation, the role of crystallinity and, in some cases, the recombination rates, and we demonstrated that in the case of mixed nanowires, those with a clear interface between Si and Ge show not only a reduced quantum confinement effect but display also a natural geometrical separation between electron and hole.
doi:10.1007/s11671-010-9688-9
PMCID: PMC2956023  PMID: 21076696
Silicon; Germanium; Nanocrystals; Nanowires; Nanophotonics; Photovoltaics
6.  A composite CdS thin film/TiO2 nanotube structure by ultrafast successive electrochemical deposition toward photovoltaic application 
Nanoscale Research Letters  2014;9(1):631.
Fabricating functional compounds on substrates with complicated morphology has been an important topic in material science and technology, which remains a challenging issue to simultaneously achieve a high growth rate for a complex nanostructure with simple controlling factors. Here, we present a novel simple and successive method based on chemical reactions in an open reaction system manipulated by an electric field. A uniform CdS/TiO2 composite tubular structure has been fabricated in highly ordered TiO2 nanotube arrays in a very short time period (~90 s) under room temperature (RT). The content of CdS in the resultant and its crystalline structure was tuned by the form and magnitude of external voltage. The as-formed structure has shown a quite broad and bulk-like light absorption spectrum with the absorption of photon energy even below that of the bulk CdS. The as-fabricated-sensitized solar cell based on this composite structure has achieved an efficiency of 1.43% without any chemical doping or co-sensitizing, 210% higher than quantum dot-sensitized solar cell (QDSSC) under a similar condition. Hopefully, this method can also easily grow nanostructures based on a wide range of compound materials for energy science and electronic technologies, especially for fast-deploying devices.
doi:10.1186/1556-276X-9-631
PMCID: PMC4266500  PMID: 25520588
Composite tubular structure; CdS thin film; TiO2 nanotube; Ultrafast; Successive electrochemical deposition; Solar cell
7.  Organic Solar Cells: Understanding the Role of Förster Resonance Energy Transfer 
Organic solar cells have the potential to become a low-cost sustainable energy source. Understanding the photoconversion mechanism is key to the design of efficient organic solar cells. In this review, we discuss the processes involved in the photo-electron conversion mechanism, which may be subdivided into exciton harvesting, exciton transport, exciton dissociation, charge transport and extraction stages. In particular, we focus on the role of energy transfer as described by Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET) theory in the photoconversion mechanism. FRET plays a major role in exciton transport, harvesting and dissociation. The spectral absorption range of organic solar cells may be extended using sensitizers that efficiently transfer absorbed energy to the photoactive materials. The limitations of Förster theory to accurately calculate energy transfer rates are discussed. Energy transfer is the first step of an efficient two-step exciton dissociation process and may also be used to preferentially transport excitons to the heterointerface, where efficient exciton dissociation may occur. However, FRET also competes with charge transfer at the heterointerface turning it in a potential loss mechanism. An energy cascade comprising both energy transfer and charge transfer may aid in separating charges and is briefly discussed. Considering the extent to which the photo-electron conversion efficiency is governed by energy transfer, optimisation of this process offers the prospect of improved organic photovoltaic performance and thus aids in realising the potential of organic solar cells.
doi:10.3390/ijms131217019
PMCID: PMC3546737  PMID: 23235328
organic solar cells; photovoltaic; exciton; FRET; energy transfer; photoconversion mechanism; review
8.  Improved dye-sensitized solar cell with a ZnO nanotree photoanode by hydrothermal method 
Nanoscale Research Letters  2014;9(1):206.
This study investigated the influence of ZnO nanostructures on dye adsorption to increase the photovoltaic conversion efficiency of solar cells. ZnO nanostructures were grown in both tree-like and nanorod (NR) arrays on an AZO/FTO film structure by using a hydrothermal method. The results were observed in detail using X-ray diffraction, field-emission scanning electron microscopy (FE-SEM), UV-visible spectrophotometry, electrochemical impedance spectroscopy, and solar simulation. The selective growth of tree-like ZnO was found to exhibit higher dye adsorption loading and conversion efficiency than ZnO NRs. The multiple ‘branches’ of ‘tree-like nanostructures’ increases the surface area for higher light harvesting and dye loading while reducing charge recombination. These improvements result in a 15% enhancement in power conversion. The objective of this study is to facilitate the development of a ZnO-based dye-sensitized solar cell.
doi:10.1186/1556-276X-9-206
PMCID: PMC4022993  PMID: 24872799
Zinc oxide; Dye-sensitized solar cell; Nanorods; Tree-like
9.  A new dawn for industrial photosynthesis 
Photosynthesis Research  2011;107(3):269-277.
Several emerging technologies are aiming to meet renewable fuel standards, mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, and provide viable alternatives to fossil fuels. Direct conversion of solar energy into fungible liquid fuel is a particularly attractive option, though conversion of that energy on an industrial scale depends on the efficiency of its capture and conversion. Large-scale programs have been undertaken in the recent past that used solar energy to grow innately oil-producing algae for biomass processing to biodiesel fuel. These efforts were ultimately deemed to be uneconomical because the costs of culturing, harvesting, and processing of algal biomass were not balanced by the process efficiencies for solar photon capture and conversion. This analysis addresses solar capture and conversion efficiencies and introduces a unique systems approach, enabled by advances in strain engineering, photobioreactor design, and a process that contradicts prejudicial opinions about the viability of industrial photosynthesis. We calculate efficiencies for this direct, continuous solar process based on common boundary conditions, empirical measurements and validated assumptions wherein genetically engineered cyanobacteria convert industrially sourced, high-concentration CO2 into secreted, fungible hydrocarbon products in a continuous process. These innovations are projected to operate at areal productivities far exceeding those based on accumulation and refining of plant or algal biomass or on prior assumptions of photosynthetic productivity. This concept, currently enabled for production of ethanol and alkane diesel fuel molecules, and operating at pilot scale, establishes a new paradigm for high productivity manufacturing of nonfossil-derived fuels and chemicals.
doi:10.1007/s11120-011-9631-7
PMCID: PMC3059824  PMID: 21318462
Cyanobacteria; Metabolic engineering; Hydrocarbon; Alkane; Diesel; Renewable fuel; Algae; Biomass; Biodiesel
10.  Highly efficient carrier multiplication in PbS nanosheets 
Nature Communications  2014;5:3789.
Semiconductor nanocrystals are promising for use in cheap and highly efficient solar cells. A high efficiency can be achieved by carrier multiplication (CM), which yields multiple electron-hole pairs for a single absorbed photon. Lead chalcogenide nanocrystals are of specific interest, since their band gap can be tuned to be optimal to exploit CM in solar cells. Interestingly, for a given photon energy CM is more efficient in bulk PbS and PbSe, which has been attributed to the higher density of states. Unfortunately, these bulk materials are not useful for solar cells due to their low band gap. Here we demonstrate that two-dimensional PbS nanosheets combine the band gap of a confined system with the high CM efficiency of bulk. Interestingly, in thin PbS nanosheets virtually the entire excess photon energy above the CM threshold is used for CM, in contrast to quantum dots, nanorods and bulk lead chalcogenide materials.
Carrier multiplication processes, where photons are converted into multiple charge carriers, promise higher efficiencies for solar cells based on quantum dots and nanorods. Here, the authors demonstrate carrier multiplication in PbS nanosheets, extending this effect to two-dimensional materials.
doi:10.1038/ncomms4789
PMCID: PMC4015322  PMID: 24781188
11.  Enhanced carrier multiplication in engineered quasi-type-II quantum dots 
Nature Communications  2014;5:4148.
One process limiting the performance of solar cells is rapid cooling (thermalization) of hot carriers generated by higher-energy solar photons. In principle, the thermalization losses can be reduced by converting the kinetic energy of energetic carriers into additional electron-hole pairs via carrier multiplication (CM). While being inefficient in bulk semiconductors this process is enhanced in quantum dots, although not sufficiently high to considerably boost the power output of practical devices. Here we demonstrate that thick-shell PbSe/CdSe nanostructures can show almost a fourfold increase in the CM yield over conventional PbSe quantum dots, accompanied by a considerable reduction of the CM threshold. These structures enhance a valence-band CM channel due to effective capture of energetic holes into long-lived shell-localized states. The attainment of the regime of slowed cooling responsible for CM enhancement is indicated by the development of shell-related emission in the visible observed simultaneously with infrared emission from the core.
Carrier multiplication can improve the performance of solar cells, but its efficiency is still not high enough to considerably increase the power output of practical devices. Cirloganu et al. show that appropriately designed core-shell quantum dots can enhance the carrier multiplication yield four-fold.
doi:10.1038/ncomms5148
PMCID: PMC4083434  PMID: 24938462
12.  Energy Conversion in Natural and Artificial Photosynthesis 
Chemistry & biology  2010;17(5):434-447.
Summary
Modern civilization is dependent upon fossil fuels, a nonrenewable energy source originally provided by the storage of solar energy. Fossil fuel dependence has severe consequences including energy security issues and greenhouse gas emissions. The consequences of fossil fuel dependence could be avoided by fuel-producing artificial systems that mimic natural photosynthesis, directly converting solar energy to fuel. This review describes the three key components of solar energy conversion in photosynthesis: light harvesting, charge separation, and catalysis. These processes are compared in natural and artificial systems. Such a comparison can assist in understanding the general principles of photosynthesis and in developing working devices including photoelectrochemical cells for solar energy conversion.
doi:10.1016/j.chembiol.2010.05.005
PMCID: PMC2891097  PMID: 20534342
13.  Surfactant free most probable TiO2 nanostructures via hydrothermal and its dye sensitized solar cell properties 
Scientific Reports  2013;3:3004.
Tailoring the nano-morphology and nano-architecture of titanium dioxide (TiO2) is the most important task in the third generation solar cells (Dye sensitized solar cells/Quantum dot sensitized solar cells) (DSSCs/QDSSCs). In this article we present complete study of surfactant free synthesis of TiO2 nanostructures by a simple and promising hydrothermal route. The plethora of nanostructures like nanoparticles clusters, 1D tetragonal nanorods, 3D dendrites containing nanorods having <30 nm diameter and 3D hollow urchin like have been synthesized. These nanostructures possess effective large surface area and thus useful in DSSCs. In the present work, 7.16% power conversion efficiency has been demonstrated for 3D dendritic hollow urchin like morphology. Our synthetic strategy provides an effective solution for surfactant free synthesis of efficient TiO2 nanoarchitectures.
doi:10.1038/srep03004
PMCID: PMC3801147  PMID: 24141599
14.  A polymer tandem solar cell with 10.6% power conversion efficiency 
Nature Communications  2013;4:1446-.
An effective way to improve polymer solar cell efficiency is to use a tandem structure, as a broader part of the spectrum of solar radiation is used and the thermalization loss of photon energy is minimized. In the past, the lack of high-performance low-bandgap polymers was the major limiting factor for achieving high-performance tandem solar cell. Here we report the development of a high-performance low bandgap polymer (bandgap <1.4 eV), poly[2,7-(5,5-bis-(3,7-dimethyloctyl)-5H-dithieno[3,2-b:2′,3′-d]pyran)-alt-4,7-(5,6-difluoro-2,1,3-benzothia diazole)] with a bandgap of 1.38 eV, high mobility, deep highest occupied molecular orbital. As a result, a single-junction device shows high external quantum efficiency of >60% and spectral response that extends to 900 nm, with a power conversion efficiency of 7.9%. The polymer enables a solution processed tandem solar cell with certified 10.6% power conversion efficiency under standard reporting conditions (25 °C, 1,000 Wm−2, IEC 60904-3 global), which is the first certified polymer solar cell efficiency over 10%.
Tandem solar cell structures combine high- and low-bandgap materials, allowing a broader spectral absorption of solar radiation. The authors report the synthesis of a high performance low-bandgap polymer which enables fabrication of a tandem solar cell with a certified power conversion efficiency of 10.6%.
doi:10.1038/ncomms2411
PMCID: PMC3660643  PMID: 23385590
15.  Efficiency enhancement of non-selenized Cu(In,Ga)Se2 solar cells employing scalable low-cost antireflective coating 
Nanoscale Research Letters  2014;9(1):331.
In this study, a non-selenized CuInGaSe2 (CIGS) solar device with textured zinc oxide (ZnO) antireflection coatings was studied. The ZnO nanostructure was fabricated by a low-temperature aqueous solution deposition method. With controlling the morphology of the solution-grown tapered ZnO nanorod coatings, the average reflectance of the CIGS solar device decreased from 8.6% to 2.1%, and the energy conversion efficiency increased from 9.1% to 11.1%. The performance improvement in the CuInGaSe2 thin-film solar cell was well explained due to the gradual increase of the refractive index between air and the top electrode of solar cell device by the insertion of the ZnO nanostructure. The results demonstrate a potential application of the ZnO nanostructure array for efficient solar device technology.
doi:10.1186/1556-276X-9-331
PMCID: PMC4120737  PMID: 25114632
Thin-film solar cell (TFSC); Zinc oxide (ZnO); Anti-reflection (AR) coating
16.  Rational Design and Synthesis of Freestanding Photoelectric Nanodevices as Highly Efficient Photocatalysts 
Nano letters  2010;10(5):1941-1949.
Photocatalysts are of significant interest for solar energy harvesting and conversion into chemical energy. However, the photocatalysts available to date are limited by either poor efficiency in the visible light range or insufficient photoelectrochemical stability. Here we report the rational design of a new generation of freestanding photoelectric nanodevices as highly efficient and stable photocatalysts by integrating a nanoscale photodiode with two redox catalysts in a single nanowire heterostructure. We show that a platinum-silicon-silver nanowire heterostructure can be synthesized to integrate a nanoscale metal-semiconductor Schottky diode encased in a protective insulating shell with two exposed metal catalysts. We further demonstrated that the Schottky diodes exhibited pronounced photovoltaic effect with nearly unity internal quantum efficiency, and that the integrated nanowire heterostructures could be used as highly efficient photocatalysts for a wide range of thermodynamically downhill and uphill reactions including photocatalytic degradation of organic dyes, reduction of metal ions and carbon dioxide using visible light. Our studies for the first time demonstrated the integration of multiple distinct functional components into a single nanostructure to form a standalone active nanosystem, and for the first time successfully realized a photoelectric nanodevice that is both highly efficient and highly stable throughout the entire solar spectrum. It thus opens a rational avenue to design and synthesize a new generation of photoelectric nanosystems with unprecedented efficiency and stability, and will impact broadly in areas including environmental remediation and solar fuel production.
doi:10.1021/nl101010m
PMCID: PMC2951842  PMID: 20373781
17.  Dye Sensitized Solar Cells 
Dye sensitized solar cell (DSSC) is the only solar cell that can offer both the flexibility and transparency. Its efficiency is comparable to amorphous silicon solar cells but with a much lower cost. This review not only covers the fundamentals of DSSC but also the related cutting-edge research and its development for industrial applications. Most recent research topics on DSSC, for example, applications of nanostructured TiO2, ZnO electrodes, ionic liquid electrolytes, carbon nanotubes, graphene and solid state DSSC have all been included and discussed.
doi:10.3390/ijms11031103
PMCID: PMC2869240  PMID: 20480003
photoelectrochemistry; dye sensitized solar cells (DSSC)
18.  Design, synthesis, and characterization of novel nanowire structures for photovoltaics and intracellular probes* 
Semiconductor nanowires (NWs) represent a unique system for exploring phenomena at the nanoscale and are expected to play a critical role in future electronic, optoelectronic, and miniaturized biomedical devices. Modulation of the composition and geometry of nanostructures during growth could encode information or function, and realize novel applications beyond the conventional lithographical limits. This review focuses on the fundamental science aspects of the bottom-up paradigm, which are synthesis and physical property characterization of semiconductor NWs and NW heterostructures, as well as proof-of-concept device concept demonstrations, including solar energy conversion and intracellular probes. A new NW materials synthesis is discussed and, in particular, a new “nanotectonic” approach is introduced that provides iterative control over the NW nucleation and growth for constructing 2D kinked NW superstructures. The use of radial and axial p-type/intrinsic/n-type (p-i-n) silicon NW (Si-NW) building blocks for solar cells and nanoscale power source applications is then discussed. The critical benefits of such structures and recent results are described and critically analyzed, together with some of the diverse challenges and opportunities in the near future. Finally, results are presented on several new directions, which have recently been exploited in interfacing biological systems with NW devices.
doi:10.1351/PAC-CON-11-08-25
PMCID: PMC3374661  PMID: 22707797
biotechnology; intracellular; nanowires; photovoltaics; synthesis
19.  From natural to artificial photosynthesis 
Demand for energy is projected to increase at least twofold by mid-century relative to the present global consumption because of predicted population and economic growth. This demand could be met, in principle, from fossil energy resources, particularly coal. However, the cumulative nature of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions demands that stabilizing the atmospheric CO2 levels to just twice their pre-anthropogenic values by mid-century will be extremely challenging, requiring invention, development and deployment of schemes for carbon-neutral energy production on a scale commensurate with, or larger than, the entire present-day energy supply from all sources combined. Among renewable and exploitable energy resources, nuclear fusion energy or solar energy are by far the largest. However, in both cases, technological breakthroughs are required with nuclear fusion being very difficult, if not impossible on the scale required. On the other hand, 1 h of sunlight falling on our planet is equivalent to all the energy consumed by humans in an entire year. If solar energy is to be a major primary energy source, then it must be stored and despatched on demand to the end user. An especially attractive approach is to store solar energy in the form of chemical bonds as occurs in natural photosynthesis. However, a technology is needed which has a year-round average conversion efficiency significantly higher than currently available by natural photosynthesis so as to reduce land-area requirements and to be independent of food production. Therefore, the scientific challenge is to construct an ‘artificial leaf’ able to efficiently capture and convert solar energy and then store it in the form of chemical bonds of a high-energy density fuel such as hydrogen while at the same time producing oxygen from water. Realistically, the efficiency target for such a technology must be 10 per cent or better. Here, we review the molecular details of the energy capturing reactions of natural photosynthesis, particularly the water-splitting reaction of photosystem II and the hydrogen-generating reaction of hydrogenases. We then follow on to describe how these two reactions are being mimicked in physico-chemical-based catalytic or electrocatalytic systems with the challenge of creating a large-scale robust and efficient artificial leaf technology.
doi:10.1098/rsif.2012.0984
PMCID: PMC3627107  PMID: 23365193
artificial leaf; hydrogenases; photosystem II; solar energy; solar fuels; water splitting
20.  An ultraviolet responsive hybrid solar cell based on titania/poly(3-hexylthiophene) 
Scientific Reports  2013;3:1283.
Here we present an ultraviolet responsive inorganic-organic hybrid solar cell based on titania/poly(3-hexylthiophene) (TiO2/P3HT) heterojuction. In this solar cell, TiO2 is an ultraviolet light absorber and electronic conductor, P3HT is a hole conductor, the light-to-electrical conversion is realized by the cooperation for these two components. Doping ionic salt in P3HT polymer can improve the photovoltaic performance of the solar cell. Under ultraviolet light irradiation with intensity of 100 mW·cm−2, the hybrid solar cell doped with 1.0 wt.% lithium iodide achieves an energy conversion efficiency of 1.28%, which is increased by 33.3% compared to that of the hybrid solar cell without lithium iodide doping. Our results open a novel sunlight irradiation field for solar energy utilization, demonstrate the feasibility of ultraviolet responsive solar cells, and provide a new route for enhancing the photovoltaic performance of solar cells.
doi:10.1038/srep01283
PMCID: PMC3573334  PMID: 23412470
21.  Hybrid morphology dependence of CdTe:CdSe bulk-heterojunction solar cells 
Nanoscale Research Letters  2014;9(1):593.
A nanocrystal thin-film solar cell operating on an exciton splitting pattern requires a highly efficient separation of electron-hole pairs and transportation of separated charges. A hybrid bulk-heterojunction (HBH) nanostructure providing a large contact area and interpenetrated charge channels is favorable to an inorganic nanocrystal solar cell with high performance. For this freshly appeared structure, here in this work, we have firstly explored the influence of hybrid morphology on the photovoltaic performance of CdTe:CdSe bulk-heterojunction solar cells with variation in CdSe nanoparticle morphology. Quantum dot (QD) or nanotetrapod (NT)-shaped CdSe nanocrystals have been employed together with CdTe NTs to construct different hybrid structures. The solar cells with the two different hybrid active layers show obvious difference in photovoltaic performance. The hybrid structure with densely packed and continuously interpenetrated two phases generates superior morphological and electrical properties for more efficient inorganic bulk-heterojunction solar cells, which could be readily realized in the NTs:QDs hybrid. This proved strategy is applicable and promising in designing other highly efficient inorganic hybrid solar cells.
doi:10.1186/1556-276X-9-593
PMCID: PMC4217100  PMID: 25386107
Hybrid bulk-heterojunction solar cells; CdSe; CdTe
22.  Advancements in n-Type Base Crystalline Silicon Solar Cells and Their Emergence in the Photovoltaic Industry 
The Scientific World Journal  2013;2013:470347.
The p-type crystalline silicon wafers have occupied most of the solar cell market today. However, modules made with n-type crystalline silicon wafers are actually the most efficient modules up to date. This is because the material properties offered by n-type crystalline silicon substrates are suitable for higher efficiencies. Properties such as the absence of boron-oxygen related defects and a greater tolerance to key metal impurities by n-type crystalline silicon substrates are major factors that underline the efficiency of n-type crystalline silicon wafer modules. The bi-facial design of n-type cells with good rear-side electronic and optical properties on an industrial scale can be shaped as well. Furthermore, the development in the industrialization of solar cell designs based on n-type crystalline silicon substrates also highlights its boost in the contributions to the photovoltaic industry. In this paper, a review of various solar cell structures that can be realized on n-type crystalline silicon substrates will be given. Moreover, the current standing of solar cell technology based on n-type substrates and its contribution in photovoltaic industry will also be discussed.
doi:10.1155/2013/470347
PMCID: PMC3891230  PMID: 24459433
23.  Efficient PbS/CdS co-sensitized solar cells based on TiO2 nanorod arrays 
Narrow bandgap PbS nanoparticles, which may expand the light absorption range to the near-infrared region, were deposited on TiO2 nanorod arrays by successive ionic layer adsorption and reaction method to make a photoanode for quantum dot-sensitized solar cells (QDSCs). The thicknesses of PbS nanoparticles were optimized to enhance the photovoltaic performance of PbS QDSCs. A uniform CdS layer was directly coated on previously grown PbS-TiO2 photoanode to protect the PbS from the chemical attack of polysulfide electrolytes. A remarkable short-circuit photocurrent density (approximately 10.4 mA/cm2) for PbS/CdS co-sensitized solar cell was recorded while the photocurrent density of only PbS-sensitized solar cells was lower than 3 mA/cm2. The power conversion efficiency of the PbS/CdS co-sensitized solar cell reached 1.3%, which was beyond the arithmetic addition of the efficiencies of single constituents (PbS and CdS). These results indicate that the synergistic combination of PbS with CdS may provide a stable and effective sensitizer for practical solar cell applications.
doi:10.1186/1556-276X-8-67
PMCID: PMC3600010  PMID: 23394609
TiO2; PbS; CdS; Nanorod; Solar cells
24.  Broadband solar absorption enhancement via periodic nanostructuring of electrodes 
Scientific Reports  2013;3:2928.
Solution processed colloidal quantum dot (CQD) solar cells have great potential for large area low-cost photovoltaics. However, light utilization remains low mainly due to the tradeoff between small carrier transport lengths and longer infrared photon absorption lengths. Here, we demonstrate a bottom-illuminated periodic nanostructured CQD solar cell that enhances broadband absorption without compromising charge extraction efficiency of the device. We use finite difference time domain (FDTD) simulations to study the nanostructure for implementation in a realistic device and then build proof-of-concept nanostructured solar cells, which exhibit a broadband absorption enhancement over the wavelength range of λ = 600 to 1100 nm, leading to a 31% improvement in overall short-circuit current density compared to a planar device containing an approximately equal volume of active material. Remarkably, the improved current density is achieved using a light-absorber volume less than half that typically used in the best planar devices.
doi:10.1038/srep02928
PMCID: PMC3796292  PMID: 24121519
25.  Ab initio design of nanostructures for solar energy conversion: a case study on silicon nitride nanowire 
Nanoscale Research Letters  2014;9(1):531.
Design of novel materials for efficient solar energy conversion is critical to the development of green energy technology. In this work, we present a first-principles study on the design of nanostructures for solar energy harvesting on the basis of the density functional theory. We show that the indirect band structure of bulk silicon nitride is transferred to direct bandgap in nanowire. We find that intermediate bands can be created by doping, leading to enhancement of sunlight absorption. We further show that codoping not only reduces the bandgap and introduces intermediate bands but also enhances the solubility of dopants in silicon nitride nanowires due to reduced formation energy of substitution. Importantly, the codoped nanowire is ferromagnetic, leading to the improvement of carrier mobility. The silicon nitride nanowires with direct bandgap, intermediate bands, and ferromagnetism may be applicable to solar energy harvesting.
doi:10.1186/1556-276X-9-531
PMCID: PMC4186815  PMID: 25294975
Silicon nitride nanowire; Solar energy harvesting; Doping; First-principles calculation

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