Solution-processed core-shell nanowires for efficient photovoltaic cells

Nat Nanotechnol. 2011 Aug 21;6(9):568-72. doi: 10.1038/nnano.2011.139.


Semiconductor nanowires are promising for photovoltaic applications, but, so far, nanowire-based solar cells have had lower efficiencies than planar cells made from the same materials, even allowing for the generally lower light absorption of nanowires. It is not clear, therefore, if the benefits of the nanowire structure, including better charge collection and transport and the possibility of enhanced absorption through light trapping, can outweigh the reductions in performance caused by recombination at the surface of the nanowires and at p-n junctions. Here, we fabricate core-shell nanowire solar cells with open-circuit voltage and fill factor values superior to those reported for equivalent planar cells, and an energy conversion efficiency of ∼5.4%, which is comparable to that of equivalent planar cells despite low light absorption levels. The device is made using a low-temperature solution-based cation exchange reaction that creates a heteroepitaxial junction between a single-crystalline CdS core and single-crystalline Cu2S shell. We integrate multiple cells on single nanowires in both series and parallel configurations for high output voltages and currents, respectively. The ability to produce efficient nanowire-based solar cells with a solution-based process and Earth-abundant elements could significantly reduce fabrication costs relative to existing high-temperature bulk material approaches.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.