Ultrafast Electron Dynamics in Solar Energy Conversion

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Abstract

Electrons are the workhorses of solar energy conversion. Conversion of the energy of light to electricity in photovoltaics, or to energy-rich molecules (solar fuel) through photocatalytic processes, invariably starts with photoinduced generation of energy-rich electrons. The harvesting of these electrons in practical devices rests on a series of electron transfer processes whose dynamics and efficiencies determine the function of materials and devices. To capture the energy of a photogenerated electron-hole pair in a solar cell material, charges of opposite sign have to be separated against electrostatic attractions, prevented from recombining and being transported through the active material to electrodes where they can be extracted. In photocatalytic solar fuel production, these electron processes are coupled to chemical reactions leading to storage of the energy of light in chemical bonds. With the focus on the ultrafast time scale, we here discuss the light-induced electron processes underlying the function of several molecular and hybrid materials currently under development for solar energy applications in dye or quantum dot-sensitized solar cells, polymer-fullerene polymer solar cells, organometal halide perovskite solar cells, and finally some photocatalytic systems.

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  • Condensed Matter Physics
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10940-11024
Number of pages85
JournalChemical Reviews
Volume117
Issue number16
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Aug 23
Publication categoryResearch
Peer-reviewedYes