Emerging Materials for Transparent Conductive Electrodes and Their Applications in Photovoltaics
Falco, Charles M.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractClean and affordable energy, especially solar energy, is becoming more and more important as our annual total energy consumption keeps rising. However, to make solar energy more affordable and accessible, the cost for fabrication, transportation and assembly of all components need to be reduced. As a crucial component for solar cells, transparent conductive electrode (TCE) can determine the cost and performance. A light weight, easy-to-fabricate and cost-effective new generation TCE is thus needed. While indium-doped tin oxide (ITO) has been the most widely used material for commercial applications as TCEs, its cost has gone up due to the limited global supply of indium. This is not only due to the scarcity of the element itself, but also the massive production of various opto-electronic devices such as TVs, smartphones and tablets. In order to reduce the cost for fabricating large area solar cells, substitute materials for ITO should be developed. These materials should have similar optical transmittance in the visible wavelength range, as well as similar electrical conductivity (sheet resistance) to ITO. This work starts with synthesizing ITO-replacing nano-materials, such as copper nanowires (CuNWs), derivative zinc oxide (ZnO) thin films, reduced graphene oxide (rGO) and so on. Further, we applied various deposition techniques, including spin-coating, spray-coating, Mayer-rod coating, filtration and transferring, to coat transparent substrates with these materials in order to fabricate TCEs. We characterize these materials and analyze their electrical/optical properties as TCEs. Additionally, these fabricated single-material-based TCEs were tested in various lab conditions, and their shortcomings (instability, rigidity, etc.) were highlighted. In order to address these issues, we hybridized the different materials to combine their strengths and compared the properties to single-material based TCEs. The multiple hybridized TCEs have comparable optical/electrical metrics to ITO. The doped-ZnO TCEs exhibit high optical transmittance over 90% in the visible range and low sheet resistance under 200Ω/sq. For CuNW-based composite electrodes, ~ 85% optical transmittance and ~ 25Ω/sq were observed. Meanwhile, the hybridization of materials adds additional features such as flexibility or resistance to corrosion. Finally, as a proof of concept, the CuNW-based composite TCEs were tested in dye-sensitized solar cells (DSSCs), showing similar performance to ITO based samples.
Degree ProgramGraduate College