Scientists Identify New Family of Iron-Based Absorber Materials for Solar Cells (Fact Sheet), NREL Highlights, Science

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Use of Earth-abundant materials in solar absorber films is critical for expanding the reach of photovoltaic (PV) technologies. The use of Earth-abundant and inexpensive Fe in PV was proposed more than 25 years ago in the form of FeS{sub 2} pyrite - fool's gold. Unfortunately, the material has been plagued by performance problems that to this day are both persistent and not well understood. Researchers from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and Oregon State University, working collaboratively in the Center for Inverse Design, an Energy Frontier Research Center, have uncovered several new insights into the problems of FeS{sub 2}. ... continued below

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Creator: Unknown. October 1, 2011.

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Use of Earth-abundant materials in solar absorber films is critical for expanding the reach of photovoltaic (PV) technologies. The use of Earth-abundant and inexpensive Fe in PV was proposed more than 25 years ago in the form of FeS{sub 2} pyrite - fool's gold. Unfortunately, the material has been plagued by performance problems that to this day are both persistent and not well understood. Researchers from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and Oregon State University, working collaboratively in the Center for Inverse Design, an Energy Frontier Research Center, have uncovered several new insights into the problems of FeS{sub 2}. They have used these advances to propose and implement design rules that can be used to identify new Fe-containing materials that can circumvent the limitations of FeS{sub 2} pyrite. The team has identified that it is the unavoidable metallic secondary phases and surface defects coexisting near the FeS{sub 2} thin-film surfaces and grain boundaries that limit its open-circuit voltage, rather than the S vacancies in the bulk, which has long been commonly assumed. The materials Fe{sub 2}SiS{sub 4} and Fe{sub 2}GeS{sub 4} hold considerable promise as PV absorbers. The ternary Si compound is especially attractive, as it contains three of the more abundant low-cost elements available today. The band gap (E{sub g} = 1.5 eV) from both theory and experiment is higher than those of c-Si and FeS{sub 2}, offering better absorption of the solar spectrum and potentially higher solar cell efficiencies. More importantly, these materials do not have metallic secondary phase problems as seen in FeS{sub 2}. High calculated formation energies of donor-type defects are consistent with p-type carriers in thin films and are prospects for high open-circuit voltages in cells.

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  • Related Information: NREL (National Renewable Energy Laboratory)

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  • Report No.: NREL/FS-5900-52003
  • Grant Number: AC36-08GO28308
  • DOI: 10.2172/1027686 | External Link
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 1027686
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc843472

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  • October 1, 2011

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Scientists Identify New Family of Iron-Based Absorber Materials for Solar Cells (Fact Sheet), NREL Highlights, Science, report, October 1, 2011; Golden, Colorado. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc843472/: accessed November 24, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.