Improving Photovoltaics with High Luminescence Efficiency Quantum Dot Layers


A solar cell relies on its ability to turn photons into current. Because short wavelength photons are typically absorbed near the top surface of a cell, the generated charge carriers recombine before being collected. But when a layer of quantum dots (nanoscale semiconductor particles) is placed on top of the cell, it absorbs short wavelength photons and emits them into the cell at longer wavelengths, which enables more efficient carrier collection. However, the resulting power conversion efficiency of the system depends critically on the quantum dot luminescence efficiency – the nature of this relationship was previously unknown. Our calculations suggest that a quantum dot layer must have high luminescence efficiency (at least 80%) to improve the current output of existing photovoltaic (PV) cells; otherwise, it may worsen the cell’s efficiency. Our quantum dot layer (using quantum dots with over 85% quantum yield) slightly reduced the efficiency of our PV cells. We observed a decrease in short circuit current of a commercial-grade cell from 0.1977 A to 0.1826 A, a 7.6% drop, suggesting that improved optical coupling from the quantum dot emission into the solar cell is needed. With better optical coupling, we predict current enhancements between ~6% and ~8% for a solar cell that already has an antireflection coating. Such improvements could have important commercial impacts if the coating could be deployed in a scalable fashion.