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A description of energy conversion in photoelectrochemical solar cells


Photoelectrochemical cells (PECs) provide alternatives to conventional solid-state solar cells. Since the discovery in 1976, the n-cadmium chalcogenide/aqueous polysulphide photoelectrochemical cell, n-CdX/Sj2− PEC, has been the most studied and in some ways the most promising of these liquid solar cells1,2, and can combine photoelectrochemical conversion with electrochemical storage3 in a system competitive in overall efficiency with the best comparable solid-state systems. But despite hundreds of studies, neither the reactive chemical species nor the chemical mechanism of operation is known. Here a complete description of the radiative to electrical energy conversion process in n-CdX/Sj2− systems is introduced, accomplished by determining the active chemical species and limiting photoelectrochemical processes. Two distinct chemical processes control energy conversion. Photocurrent is limited by supersulphide adsorption. Maximum photopower utilization is desorption limited and related to the activity of the hydrosulphide, hydroxide and shorter polysulphide species.

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Licht, S. A description of energy conversion in photoelectrochemical solar cells. Nature 330, 148–151 (1987).

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