New solar cell sets world record for efficiency

An international group of researchers led by U of T Engineering Professor Ted Sargent has created the most efficient CQD solar cell the world has ever seen – with a record-breaking 7.0% efficiency.
CQD stands for colloidal quantum dot – a type of semiconductor only a few nanometres in size which is used to harvest electricity from the entire solar spectrum, including both visible and invisible wavelengths.
"Our world urgently needs innovative, cost-effective ways to convert the sun’s abundant energy into usable electricity,” said Sargent. “This work shows that the abundant materials interfaces inside colloidal quantum dots can be mastered in a robust manner, proving that low cost and steadily-improving efficiencies can be combined."
The findings, published in Nature Nanotechnology, are the result of work by the University of Toronto and King Abdullah University of Science & Technology (KAUST).
“Previously, quantum dot solar cells have been limited by the large internal surface areas of the nanoparticles in the film, which made extracting electricity difficult,” said post-doctoral fellow Susanna Thon, a lead co-author of the paper. “Our breakthrough was to use a combination of organic and inorganic chemistry to completely cover all of the exposed surfaces.”
Unlike current slow and expensive semiconductor growth techniques, CQD films can be created quickly and at low cost, similar to paint or ink. This research paves the way for solar cells that can be fabricated on flexible substrates in the same way newspapers are rapidly printed in mass quantities.
The U of T cell represents a 37% increase in efficiency over the previous certified record. In order to improve efficiency, the researchers needed a way to both reduce the number of “traps” for electrons associated with poor surface quality while simultaneously ensuring their films were very dense to absorb as much light as possible.  The solution was a so-called “hybrid passivation” scheme.