Scientists identify new ‘promising’ absorber material for thin-film solar cells


From pv magazine Global

Researchers led by Dartmouth College in the United States have identified zintl-phosphide (BaCd2P2) as a potential new absorber material for thin-film solar cells after conducting a high-throughput (HT) computational screening among 40,000 promising inorganic materials.

“Based on its dopability, this material could be used as a p-type absorber layer for pn junction cells or as an intrinsic absorber layer for p-i-n cells,” the research’s corresponding author, Zhenkun Yuan, told pv magazine.

The group selected the inorganic materials from the Materials Project database, which is an open-access database describing material properties that can be used to accelerate the development of a given technology by predicting how new materials, both real and hypothetical, can be potentially utilized.

Through the screening, the scientists initially identified materials that offer a suitable band gap, small effective masses, and promising defect properties. “Among these promising candidates, we select the zintl-phosphide (BaCd2P2) and explicitly show that the computed nonradiative recombination rates in BaCd2P2 are better than or comparable with those in high-efficiency solar absorbers such as the halide perovskites,” they explained.

After identifying the material, the group found that zintl-phosphide can be very stable both in air and water. “You can put it out for six months and it will stay the same,” added co-author Geoffroy Hautier. “When you don’t have to worry about moisture and air contamination, that significantly reduces your costs.”

By conducting bright photoluminescence (PL) and time-resolved microwave conductivity (TRMC), it also found the material has a potential energy bandgap of 1.45 eV and a carrier lifetime of up to 30 ns.

“All of these results indicate that BaCd2P2 is a promising high-performance solar cell absorber with the potential to open a new avenue in PV for an entire family of Zintl AM2X2 solar absorbers, where A and M are +2 ions and X is a pnictogen,” the researchers said.

“We won’t have it as a solar panel tomorrow,” added Hautier, “but we think this family of materials is exceptional and worth looking at.”

Their findings were presented in the paper “Discovery of the Zintl-phosphide BaCd2P2 as a long carrier lifetime and stable solar absorber,” published in Joule.

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