ISU Electrical and Computer Engineering Archives

Increasing the efficiency of organic solar cells by photonic and electrostatic-field enhancements

Nalwa, Kanwar S. (2011) Increasing the efficiency of organic solar cells by photonic and electrostatic-field enhancements. PhD thesis, Iowa State University.

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Abstract

Organic photovoltaic (OPV) technology is an attractive solar-electric conversion paradigm due to the promise of low cost roll-to-roll production and amenability to flexible substrates. Power conversion efficiency (PCE) exceeding 7% has recently been achieved. OPV cells suffer from low charge carrier mobilities of polymers, leading to recombination losses, higher series resistances and lower fill-factors. Thus, it is imperative to develop fabrication methodologies that can enable efficient optical absorption in films thinner than optical absorption length. Active layers conformally deposited on light-trapping, microscale textured, grating-type surfaces is one possible approach to achieve this objective. In this study, 40% theoretical increase in photonic absorption over flat OPVs is shown for devices with textured geometry by the simulation results. For verifying this theoretical result and improving the efficiency of OPVs by light trapping, OPVs were fabricated on grating-type textured substrates possessing the theoretically claimed best optical design (2 μm pitch and 1.5 μm height). Attempts to spin-coat PV active-layer on these textured substrates led to over filling of the valleys and shunts at the crest, which severely affected the performance of the resultant PV devices. Thus, it is established that although the optical design is important for OPV performance but the potential of light trapping can only be effectively tapped if the textures are amenable for realizing a conformal active layer. It is discovered that if the height of the underlying topographical features is reduced to sub-micron regime (e.g. 300 nm) and the pitch is increased to more than a micron (e.g. 2 µm), the textured surface becomes amenable to coating a conformal PV active-layer. The resultant PV cells showed 100% increase in average light absorption near the band edge due to trapping of higher wavelength photons, and 20% improvement in power conversion efficiency as compared with the flat PV cell. Another factor that severely limits the performance of OPVs is recombination of charge carriers. Thus it becomes imperative to understand the effect of processing conditions such as spin coating speed and drying rate on defect density and hence induced carrier recombination mechanism. In this study, It is shown that slow growth (longer drying time) of the active-layer leads to reduction of sub-bandgap traps by an order of magnitude as compared to fast grown active-layer. By coupling the experimental results with simulations, it is demonstrated that at one sun condition, slow grown device has bimolecular recombination as the major loss mechanism while in the fast grown device with high trap density, the trap assisted recombination dominates. It has been estimated that non-radiative recombination accounts nearly 50% of efficiency loss in modern OPVs. Generally, an external bias (electric field) is required to collect all the photogenerated charges and thus prevent their recombination. The motivation is to induce additional electric field in otherwise low mobility conjugated polymer based active layer by incorporating ferroelectric dipoles. This is expected to facilitate singlet exciton dissociation in polymer matrix and impede charge transfer exciton (CTE) recombination at polymer:fullerene interface. For the first time, it is shown that the addition of ferroelectric dipoles to modern bulk heterojunction (BHJ) can significantly improve exciton dissociation, resulting in a ~50% enhancement of overall solar cell efficiency. The devices also exhibit the unique ferroelectric-photovoltaic effect with polarization-controlled power conversion efficiency.

EPrint Type:Thesis (PhD)
Subjects:Electrical Engineering > MICROELECTRONICS & PHOTONICS > Solar Energy Conversion Materials and Devices
Research Excellence Awards
Electrical Engineering > MICROELECTRONICS & PHOTONICS > Photonics
ID Code:617
Identification Number:Identification Number UNSPECIFIED
Deposited By:Mr. Kanwar Nalwa
Deposited On:01 June 2011

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