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A New Way to Image Solar Cells in 3-D
A team of Molecular Foundry scientists and users have developed a way to use optical microscopy to map thin-film solar cells in 3-D as they absorb photons.
Significance and Impact
The method images optoelectronic dynamics in materials at the micron scale to see individual grain boundaries, substrate interfaces, and other internal obstacles that impacts a solar cell’s efficiency.
- A solar cell’s subsurface realm—where much of the energy-conversion action happens—has been inaccessible to real-time, nondestructive imaging
- Staff and industry users from PLANT PV modified a technique from biology called two-photon microscopy.
- Using two highly focused laser beams of infrared photons that penetrate inside the photovoltaic material, they can excite and track electrons to map the material’s optoelectronic properties.
- Users from NREL came to use the new method to study CdTe solar cells.
E.S. Barnard, B. Ursprung, E. Colegrove, H.R. Moutinho, N.J. Borys, B.E. Hardin, C.H. Peters, W.K. Metzger, and P.J. Schuck, Adv. Mater., 2016 (epub).