Scientists create thin films with tantalizing electronic properties

December 23, 2019

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Scientists have created thin films made from barium zirconium sulfide (BaZrS3) and confirmed that the materials have alluring electronic and optical properties predicted by theorists.

The films combine exceptionally strong light absorption with good charge transport -- two qualities that make them ideal for applications such as photovoltaics and light-emitting diodes (LEDs).

In solar panels, for example, experimental results suggest that BaZrS3 films would be much more efficient at converting sunlight into electricity than traditional silicon-based materials with identical thicknesses, says lead researcher Hao Zeng, PhD, professor of physics in the University at Buffalo College of Arts and Sciences. This could lower solar energy costs, especially because the new films performed admirably even when they had imperfections. (Manufacturing nearly flawless materials is typically more expensive, Zeng explains.)

"For many decades, there have been only a handful of semiconductor materials that have been used, with silicon being the dominant material," Zeng says. "Our thin films open the door to a new direction in semiconductor research. There's a chance to explore the potential of a whole new class of materials."

The study was published in November in the journal Nano Energy.

UB physics PhD students Xiucheng Wei and Haolei Hui were the first authors. The project -- funded by a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) SunShot award and National Science Foundation (NSF) Sustainable Chemistry, Engineering and Materials award -- included contributions from researchers at UB; Taiyuan Normal University, Southern University of Science & Technology, Xi'an Jiaotong University and the Chinese Academy of Sciences, all in China; Los Alamos National Laboratory; and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Experiments inspired by theoretical predictions

BaZrS3 belongs to a category of materials known as chalcogenide perovskites, which are nontoxic, earth-abundant compounds. In recent years, theorists have calculated that various chalcogenide perovskites should exhibit useful electronic and optical properties, and these predictions have captured the interest and imagination of experimentalists like Zeng.

BaZrS3 is not a totally new material. Zeng looked into the history of the compound, and found information dating back to the 1950s.

"It has existed for more than half a century," he says. "Among earlier research, a company in Niagara Falls produced it in powder form. I think people paid little attention to it."

But thin films -- not powder -- are needed for applications such as photovoltaics and LEDs, so that's what Zeng's team set out to create.

The researchers crafted their BaZrS3 films by using a laser to heat up and vaporize barium zirconium oxide. The vapor was deposited on a sapphire surface, forming a film, and then converted into the final material through a chemical reaction called sulfurization.

"Semiconductor research has traditionally been highly focused on conventional materials," Hui says. "This is an opportunity to explore something new. Chalcogenide perovskites share some similarities to the widely researched halide perovskites, but do not suffer from the toxicity and instability of the latter materials."

"Now that we have a thin film made from BaZrS3, we can study its fundamental properties and how it might be used in solar panels, LEDs, optical sensors and other applications," Wei says.
-end-
In addition to the NSF and DOE SunShot program, the research received support from the National Natural Science Foundation of China and the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration's Laboratory Directed Research & Development program.

University at Buffalo

Related Solar Panels Articles from Brightsurf:

Multi-institutional team extracts more energy from sunlight with advanced solar panels
Researchers working to maximize solar panel efficiency said layering advanced materials atop traditional silicon is a promising path to eke more energy out of sunlight.

Thin-skinned solar panels printed with inkjet
Efficient, yet exceptionally light organic solar cells created entirely by inkjet printing.

Green energy and better crops: Tinted solar panels could boost farm incomes
Researchers have demonstrated the use of tinted, semi-transparent solar panels to generate electricity and produce nutritionally-superior crops simultaneously, bringing the prospect of higher incomes for farmers and maximising use of agricultural land.

NREL research points to strategies for recycling of solar panels
Researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) have conducted the first global assessment into the most promising approaches to end-of-life management for solar photovoltaic (PV) modules.

Merging solar cell and liquid battery produces long-lasting solar storage
Combining liquid chemical battery technology with perovskite solar cells has led to a new record in solar energy conversion within a single device.

Merging solar cell and liquid battery produces efficient, long-lasting solar storage
Chemists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and their collaborators have created a highly efficient and long-lasting solar flow battery, a way to generate, store and redeliver renewable electricity from the sun in one device.

Trapping the Sun: New thin-film technology uses sustainable components for solar panels
Most common thin-film solar panels consist of expensive rare-earth elements like indium and gallium, or highly toxic metals like cadmium.

"Bright spot" during COVID-19: Increased power from solar panels thanks to cleaner air
During the COVID-19 pandemic, one unexpected outcome in cities around the world has been a reduction in air pollution, as people stay home to avoid contracting the coronavirus.

Double-sided solar panels that follow the sun prove most cost effective
Solar power systems with double-sided (bifacial) solar panels--which collect sunlight from two sides instead of one--and single-axis tracking technology that tilts the panels so they can follow the sun are the most cost effective to date, researchers report in the journal Joule.

Moisture-sucking gels give solar panels the chills
Polymers that absorb water from the atmosphere can make it easier to run photovoltaic devices in hot climates.

Read More: Solar Panels News and Solar Panels Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.