Solution processing of chalcogenide materials using thiol–amine “alkahest” solvent systems
Macroelectronics is a major focus in electronics research and is driven by large area applications such as flat panel displays and thin film solar cells. Innovations for these technologies, such as flexible substrates and mass production, will require efficient and affordable semiconductor processing. Low-temperature solution processing offers mild deposition methods, inexpensive processing equipment, and the possibility of high-throughput processing. In recent years, the discovery that binary “alkahest” mixtures of ethylenediamine and short chain thiols possess the ability to dissolve bulk inorganic materials to yield molecular inks has lead to the wide study of such systems and the straightforward recovery of phase pure crystalline chalcogenide thin films upon solution processing and mild annealing of the inks. In this review, we recount the work that has been done toward elucidating the scope of this method for the solution processing of inorganic materials for use in applications such as photovoltaic devices, electrocatalysts, photodetectors, thermoelectrics, and nanocrystal ligand exchange. We also take stock of the wide range of bulk materials that can be used as soluble precursors, and discuss the work that has been done to reveal the nature of the dissolved species. This method has provided a vast toolbox of over 65 bulk precursors, which can be utilized to develop new routes to functional chalcogenide materials. Future studies in this area should work toward a better understanding of the mechanisms involved in the dissolution and recovery of bulk materials, as well as broadening the scope of soluble precursors and recoverable functional materials for innovative applications.