Low cost processing of CuInSe2 nanocrystals for photovoltaic devices



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Semiconductor nanocrystal-based photovoltaics are an interesting new technology with the potential to achieve high efficiencies at low cost. CuInSe2 nanocrystals have been synthesized in solution using arrested precipitation and dispersed in solvent to form a “solar ink”. The inks have been deposited under ambient conditions to fabricate photovoltaic devices with efficiency up to 3%. Despite the low cost spray coating deposition technique, device efficiencies remain too low for commercialization. Higher efficiencies up to 7% have been achieved using a high temperature selenization process, but this process is too expensive. New nanocrystal film treatment processes are necessary which can improve the device efficiency at low cost.

To this end, CuInSe2 nanocrystals were synthesized using a diphenyl phosphine:Se precursor which allows for precise control over the nanocrystal size. The size is controlled by changing the temperature of the reaction. The smallest size nanocrystals demonstrated extremely high device open circuit voltage. Ligand exchange procedures were used to replace the insulating oleylamine capping ligand used during synthesis with more conductive halide ions or inorganic chalcogenidometallate cluster (ChaM) ligands. These ligands led to improved charge transport in the nanocrystal films.

A high-intensity pulsed light processing technique known as photonic curing was used which allows for high temperature sintering of nanocrystal films on temperature-sensitive substrates. High energy pulses cause the nanocrystals to sinter into large grains, primarily through melting and resolidification. The choice of metal back contact has a dramatic effect on the final film morphology, with Au and MoSe2 back contacts providing much better adhesion with the CuInSe2 than Mo back contacts. Nanocrystal sintering without melting can be achieved by replacing the oleylamine ligands with ChaM ligands prior to photonic curing.

Low energy photonic curing pulses vaporize the oleylamine ligands without inducing sintering or grain growth. This greatly improved nanocrystal coupling and interparticle charge transport. Multiexcitons were successfully extracted from these nanocrystal films and external quantum efficiencies over 100% were observed. Transient absorption spectroscopy was used to study the multiexciton generation process in CuInSe2 nanocrystal films and colloidal suspensions. The multiexciton generation efficiency, threshold, and Auger lifetimes for CuInSe2 compare well with other nanocrystal materials.