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The University of Southampton

Research project: High efficiency low cost solar cells

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Photovoltaic energy conversion has many similarities with the photosynthetic system.  The purple bacterial photosynthesis has proved to be a very attractive system for physical chemists who are interested in researching the light harvesting process.

This project focuses on two of these natural stages: a molecular/nanostructure collector which absorbs light with a high optical absorption cross section, and the transfer of energy to a semiconductor converter which separates the photo-generated charges and produces electricity.  It is anticipated that this novel photovoltaic structure will lead to efficient light absorption and energy conversion within a compact device, with low material requirements and low cost.

Thus, the simplified model of photosynthesis for solar cell application is developed in order to identify the chemical potential of electron transfer between molecules in the photosynthetic membrane.  For experimental work, the preliminary study of a surface treatment of silicon was carried out by passivation technique.  We are currently working on attaching organic monolayers to the silicon surface which involves:

  1. preliminary cleaning of the surface and removal of the native oxide;
  2. passivation of the surface with hydrogen; and
  3. substitution of the H-terminated with a methyl-terminated surface

The characterisation of the interface properties of the alkyl monolayers attachment (Si-C bonds) was done by optical and electrical measurements.

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