The Elements of Innovation Discovered

Flash of light improves solar cells

Metal Tech News - May 31, 2024

A novel light-based method enhances PbS quantum dot solar cells, promising cheaper and more efficient renewable energy.

South Korean scientists have discovered a new method to enhance the efficiency of lead-sulfide (PbS) quantum dot solar cells. By using rapid bursts of specialized light instead of prolonged heating, they have found a way to produce cheaper and more effective solar power.

At present, the fabrication of PbS solar cells requires a lengthy heat treatment process. This involves heating a key component of the cells – called quantum dots – generally between 10 to 30 minutes at high temperatures.

This heat treatment is instrumental in increasing the electrical conductivity of the cells but also presents significant drawbacks. When exposed to light, heat, and moisture, the quantum dots often develop defects, leading to reduced performance and efficiency.

Quantum dots are tiny semiconductor particles just a few nanometers in size. These particles have the unique ability to absorb and emit light across a wide spectrum, making them ideal for photon conversion in solar cells.

The latest breakthrough hinges on a new heat treatment process in the form of a "pulse-shaped" light.

The traditional heat treatment process, which takes a relatively long time during production and can damage the cells, it would simply be replaced by these brief flares. This would not only speed up production but also enhance the durability of the cells, making them more resistant to environmental factors like heat and moisture.

Because quantum dots can capture a wide range of sunlight, from ultraviolet to infrared, this makes them ideal for solar energy applications. However, their commercial use has been limited due to defects in the processing methods.

The new technique, developed by Professor Jongmin Choi and his team at the Daegu Gyeongbuk Institute of Science and Technology, addresses these issues.

"Through this research, we were able to improve the efficiency of solar cells by developing a new heat treatment process that can overcome the limitations of the existing quantum dot heat treatment process," said Professor Choi at DGIST. "Furthermore, the development of a quantum dot process with excellent ripple effect is expected to facilitate the widespread application of this technology to a range of optoelectronic devices in the future."

By exposing the quantum dots to intense light for just a few milliseconds, the team found that they could significantly reduce surface defects and improve the efficiency of the solar cells. This process not only enhances the cells' performance but also extends their lifespan, making solar power more reliable and cost-effective.

If it can be implemented at a larger scale, the production of PbS quantum dot cells made by the DGIST researchers' "pulse-type heat treatment technique" may break into the mainstream and become a leading contender in renewable energy technologies.


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