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  New horizons in research funding: Developing junior academics and enhancing research support for humanities and social sciences

  Reorganization of RGC Subject Panels

  Liquid-based Photovoltaic/Thermal Cogeneration for Real Building Application

  Development and Study of Hybrid Photovoltaic Cells

  Interfaces between Fullerenes and Semiconductor Nanowires: Nanofabrication and Photoinduced Charge Separation

  Vagus Nerve Stimulation Therapy: 
A New Tool for Suppressing Visceral Pain

  On the Architecture of Synapses

  Unlocking the Causes of Stroke in Asia: The Importance of Intracranial Atherosclerosis

  Area of Excellence in Information Technology

  RGC Collaborative Research Fund – Layman Summaries of Projects Funded in 2010/11 Exercise

Hybrid photovoltaic cells are electronic devices designed for conversion of light into the noblest form of energy, electricity. They are cost effective alternatives to conventional silicon solar cells. Although their power conversion efficiency has been low so far, they can potentially surpass the conventional silicon cells not only in the production cost but also in performance because of their unique architectures combining organic and inorganic materials.

Figure 1 Hybrid solar cell: a) ZnO nanowires, b) flocky ZnO nanowires; c) architecture of a polymer infiltrated solar cell.

The project is engaged in development and investigation of novel hybrid photovoltaic cells that will form a base for cost effective devices with high power conversion. The design of organic/inorganic photocell structures with implementation of new fabrication approaches and study of nanomaterial interfaces is the essence of the project. Particularly ZnO nanostructures with different morphologies including vertical ZnO nanowires and flocky nanorods (Figure 1a and 1b) prepared by simple methods are investigated and used in the designed photovoltaic device structures (Figure 1c). The ZnO nanowires, inherently n-type semiconductors, are infiltrated by organic p-type conducting materials to provide large-area p-n heterojunctions. The problem of the size and functions of the heterojunction interface and the infiltration by organic semiconductors is specifically investigated for wettability, electronic interfacial structures, effective dissociation of photo-induced excitons, their diffusion length and interfacial field separation. It is foreseen that within the designed photovoltaic cells the charge recombination process will be suppressed considerably to provide a high conversion efficiency of light to electricity. Optimizing the electrode configuration and possible suppression of charge recombination in different parts of the devices by engineering the interfaces in hybrid photovoltaic devices will lead to considerable improvement of the device efficiency.





The project team from left: C. Yan (PhD student), Dr O. Kutzay, Dr S.K. Jha, Dr J. A. Zapien (Assistant Prof, Co-I), Prof I. Bello (PI), Dr W.J. Zhang (Associate Prof, Co-I), H.E. Wang (PhD student), Z.H.Chen (PhD student) and C.P. Liu (PhD student).

The project  focuses on fundamental engineering strategies for improving the conversion efficiency. The fact that only about a third of the excitons induced in the distance of the diffusion length (2-20nm) from the interface can reach the dissociative interface formulates the first research problem, i.e., optimization and control of the interspacing in nanowire arrays. The equally important task is providing a large electrically active interface between the p-type conjugated polymer and n-ZnO nanostructures. The large electrically active interface between the p-type conjugated polymer and n-ZnO nanostructures is especially important. This provision can hardly be met with technologies used so far, since i) large molecules of conjugated polymers can difficult to creep into small interspacing of the nanostructures, ii) adsorbed gases and gases present in cavities are enclosed at interface by infiltrated polymers and iii) poor wettability of the nanostructure to the conjugated polymers causing electrically inactive interfaces and interfacial separation. As a result the project introduces a novel technology to infiltrate ZnO nanostructures. The arrays of nanowires are outgassed at elevated temperature in vacuum and then infiltrated with solutions of conjugated polymers in a protective environment and under ultrasonic agitations. The proposed procedures of infiltration are anticipated to be crucial for final device performance. Since, wettability, dissociative electric field and open circuit voltage of final devices, which are closely related to the nature of interfaces, as well as functionalization of surface are investigated thoroughly too. 

Prof Igor BELLO
Department of Physics and Materials Science
City University of Hong Kon