Atomic layer deposition in nanostructured photovoltaics: tuning optical, electronic and surface properties
Nanostructured materials offer key advantages for third-generation photovoltaics, such as the ability to achieve high optical absorption together with enhanced charge carrier collection using low cost components. However, the extensive interfacial areas in nanostructured photovoltaic devices can cause high recombination rates and a high density of surface electronic states. In this feature article, we provide a brief review of some nanostructured photovoltaic technologies including dye-sensitized, quantum dot sensitized and colloidal quantum dot solar cells. We then introduce the technique of atomic layer deposition (ALD), which is a vapor phase deposition method using a sequence of self-limiting surface reaction steps to grow thin, uniform and conformal films. We discuss how ALD has established itself as a promising tool for addressing different aspects of nanostructured photovoltaics. Examples include the use of ALD to synthesize absorber materials for both quantum dot and plasmonic solar cells, to grow barrier layers for dye and quantum dot sensitized solar cells, and to infiltrate coatings into colloidal quantum dot solar cell to improve charge carrier mobilities as well as stability. We also provide an example of monolayer surface modification in which adsorbed ligand molecules on quantum dots are used to tune the band structure of colloidal quantum dot solar cells for improved charge collection. Finally, we comment on the present challenges and future outlook of the use of ALD for nanostructured photovoltaics.