Exploiting intervalley scattering to harness hot carriers in III–V solar cells

Abstract

Hot carrier solar cells offer the potential to exceed the Shockley–Queisser limit. So far, however, there has been no clear route to achieve this result. Recently, the exploitation of the satellite valleys of the solar absorber material has been proposed as a feasible approach to harness hot carriers. Here, we show that, upon photoinduced and field-aided intervalley scattering to upper L-valleys, hot carriers can be harnessed in InGaAs/AlInAs heterojunctions at voltages defined by the upper valley (~1.25 V in the ideal case) rather than the bandgap of the InGaAs absorber (0.75 eV) under practical operational conditions. The efficiency of the present system does not exceed the single bandgap limit due to a mismatch in the valley degeneracy across the n+-AlInAs/n-InGaAs interface. However, we suggest that this is not a fundamental limitation to the realization of a hot carrier solar cell.

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

from$8.99

All prices are NET prices.

Fig. 1: InGaAs band structure and sample schematic.
Fig. 2: Photoluminescence measurements with 442 nm and 1,064 nm excitation.
Fig. 3: JV measurements with 442 nm, 1,064 nm and 1-Sun illumination.
Fig. 4: Calculated band alignments and electric field distribution for several applied biases.
Fig. 5: Concentrated JV and comparison with optimal JV.

Data availability

All the data generated or analysed during this study are included in this published article and its Supplementary Information files. The data that support the plots within this paper are available from the corresponding authors upon reasonable request.

References

  1. 1.

    Ross, R. T. & Nozik, A. J. Efficiency of hot-carrier solar energy converters. J. Appl. Phys. 53, 3813–3818 (1982).

  2. 2.

    Shockley, W. & Queisser, H. J. Detailed balance limit of efficiency of p-n junction solar cells. J. Appl. Phys. 32, 510–519 (1961).

  3. 3.

    Dimmock, J. A. R., Day, S., Smith, K., Kauer, M. & Heffernan, J. Demonstration of a hot-carrier photovoltaic cell. Prog. Photovolt. 22, 151–160 (2014).

  4. 4.

    Nguyen, D.-T. et al. Quantitative experimental assessment of hot carrier-enhanced solar cells at room temperature. Nat. Energy 3, 236–241 (2018).

  5. 5.

    Hirst, L. C., Walters, R. J., Fuhrer, M. F. & Ekins-Daukes, N. J. Experimental demonstration of hot-carrier photocurrent in an InGaAs quantum well solar cell. Appl. Phys. Lett. 104, 231115 (2014).

  6. 6.

    Rodière, J. et al. Experimental evidence of hot carriers solar cell operation in multi-quantum wells heterostructures. Appl. Phys. Lett. 106, 183901 (2015).

  7. 7.

    Yao, Y. & König, D. Comparison of bulk material candidates for hot carrier absorber. Sol. Energy Mater. Sol. Cells 140, 422–427 (2015).

  8. 8.

    Conibeer, C. J. et al. Slowing of carrier cooling in hot carrier solar cells. Thin Solid Films 516, 6948–6953 (2008).

  9. 9.

    Gibelli, F., Lombez, L. & Guillemoles, J.-F. Accurate radiation temperature and chemical potential from quantitative photoluminescence analysis of hot carrier populations. J. Phys. Condens. Matter 29, 06LT02 (2016).

  10. 10.

    Ryan, J. F. et al. Time-resolved photoluminescence of two-dimensional hot carriers in GaAs-AlGaAs heterostructures. Phys. Rev. Lett. 53, 1841–1844 (1984).

  11. 11.

    Le Bris, A. et al. Thermalisation rate study of GaSb-based heterostructures by continuous wave photoluminescence and their potential as hot carrier solar cell absorbers. Energy Environ. Sci. 5, 6225–6232 (2012).

  12. 12.

    Hirst, L. C. et al. Hot carriers in quantum wells for photovoltaic efficiency enhancement. IEEE J. Photovolt. 4, 244–252 (2014).

  13. 13.

    Hirst, L. C. et al. Enhanced hot-carrier effects in InAlAs/InGaAs quantum wells. IEEE J. Photovolt. 4, 1526–1531 (2014).

  14. 14.

    Ferry, D. K. In search of a true hot carrier solar cell. Semicond. Sci. Technol. 34, 044001 (2019).

  15. 15.

    Whiteside, V. R. et al. The role of intervalley scattering in hot carrier transfer and extraction in type-II InAs/AlAsSb quantum well solar cells. Semicond. Sci. Technol. 34, 094001 (2019).

  16. 16.

    Clady, R. et al. Interplay between the hot phonon effect and intervalley scattering on the cooling rate of hot carriers in GaAs and InP. Prog. Photovolt. 20, 82–92 (2012).

  17. 17.

    Grann, E. D., Tsen, K. T. & Ferry, D. K. Non-equilibrium phonon dynamics and electron distribution functions in InP and InAs. Phys. Rev. B 53, 9847–9851 (1996).

  18. 18.

    Lugli, P. Non-equilibrium longitudinal-optical phonon effects in GaAs-AlGaAs quantum wells. Phys. Rev. Lett. 59, 716–719 (1987).

  19. 19.

    Prabhu, S. S., Vengurlekar, A. S., Roy, S. K. & Shah, J. Non-equilibrium dynamics of hot carrier and hot phonons in CdSe and GaAs. Phys. Rev. B 51, 14233–14246 (1995).

  20. 20.

    Gunn, J. B. Microwave oscillations of current in III-V semiconductors. Solid State Commun. 1, 88–91 (1963).

  21. 21.

    Ridley, B. K. & Watkins, T. B. The possibility of negative resistance effects in semiconductors. Proc. Phys. Soc. 78, 293–304 (1961).

  22. 22.

    Ayubi-Moak, J. S. et al. Simulation of ultra-sub-micron-gate In0.52Al0.48As/In0.75Ga0.25As/In0.52Al0.48As pseudomorphic HEMTs using a full-band Monte Carlo simulator. IEEE Trans. Electron Devices 54, 2327–2338 (2007).

  23. 23.

    Akis, R. et al. Full-band cellular Monte Carlo simulations of terahertz high electron mobility transistors. J. Phys. Condens. Matter 20, 384201 (2008).

  24. 24.

    Rosenwaks, Y. et al. Hot-carrier cooling in GaAs: quantum wells versus bulk. Phys. Rev. B. 48, 14675–14678 (1993).

  25. 25.

    Wurfel, P. The chemical potential of radiation. J. Phys. Chem. C 15, 3967–3985 (1982).

  26. 26.

    Murdin, B. N. et al. Direct observation of the LO phonon bottleneck in wide GaAs/AlxGa1−xAs quantum wells. Phys. Rev. B 55, 5171–5176 (1997).

  27. 27.

    Conibeer., G. J. et al. Progress on hot carrier cells. Sol. Energy Mater. Sol. Cells 93, 713–719 (2009).

  28. 28.

    Conibeer, G. J. et al. Modelling of hot carrier solar cell absorbers. Sol. Energy Mater. Sol. Cells 94, 1516–1521 (2010).

  29. 29.

    Welland, I. & Ferry, D. K. Electron transport in the solar-relevant InAlAs. Semicond. Sci. Technol. 34, 064003 (2019).

  30. 30.

    Esmaielpour, H. et al. Effect of occupation of the excited states and phonon broadening on the determination of the hot carrier temperature from CW photoluminescence in InGaAsP quantum well absorbers. Prog. Photovolt. 25, 782–790 (2017).

  31. 31.

    Ferry, D. K. Semiconductors Sec. 10.4, 11.4.4 (Macmillan, 1991).

Download references

Acknowledgements

The authors acknowledge financial support from the National Science Foundation ECCS program through grant no. ECCS-1610062. This work was performed under the umbrella of the Oklahoma Photovoltaics Research Institute (OKPVRI) and the Center for Quantum Research and Technology (CQRT) at the University of Oklahoma.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Contributions

The devices were processed by H.E. and K.R.D. The data were taken and analysed by a combination of H.E., K.R.D. and V.R.W. at OU. Theoretical calculations were performed by D.K.F. at ASU. The materials were grown by molecular beam epitaxy at OU by T.D.M. under the supervision of M.B.S. All experimental work was performed in the group of I.R.S., whom also provided scientific and technical guidance, as well as project management. The manuscript was written by a combination of V.R.W., I.R.S. and D.K.F.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Ian R. Sellers.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests

Additional information

Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Figs. 1−6, discussion and refs. 1–2.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Esmaielpour, H., Dorman, K.R., Ferry, D.K. et al. Exploiting intervalley scattering to harness hot carriers in III–V solar cells. Nat Energy 5, 336–343 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41560-020-0602-0

Download citation

Further reading