The Spatial Collection Efficiency of Charge Carriers in Photovoltaic and Photoelectrochemical Cells
Published Web Locationhttps://doi.org/10.1016/j.joule.2017.12.007
The spatial collection efficiency portrays the driving forces and loss mechanisms in photovoltaic and photoelectrochemical devices. It is defined as the fraction of photogenerated charge carriers created at a specific point within the device that contribute to the photocurrent. In stratified planar structures, the spatial collection efficiency can be extracted out of photocurrent action spectra measurements empirically, with few a priori assumptions. Although this method was applied to photovoltaic cells made of well-understood materials, it has never been used to study unconventional materials such as metal-oxide semiconductors that are often employed in photoelectrochemical cells. This perspective shows the opportunities that this method has to offer for investigating new materials and devices with unknown properties. The relative simplicity of the method, and its applicability to operando performance characterization, makes it an important tool for analysis and design of new photovoltaic and photoelectrochemical materials and devices. Understanding the optoelectronic and transport properties of semiconductors is essential for producing high-efficiency photovoltaic and photoelectrochemical cells. To this end, empirical extraction of the spatial collection efficiency (i.e., the fraction of photogenerated charge carriers created at a specific point within the device that contribute to the photocurrent) is a useful, nondestructive, analytical tool to study new materials, junctions, and devices. This perspective describes how the spatial collection efficiency can be extracted by combining photocurrent action spectra with optical absorption profiles. The result is high-resolution depth profiles of device functionality with very few assumptions, which paves the way to operando semiconductor tomography. The challenges and opportunities that this method offers for analysis of complex materials are discussed. Since the method is based on widely used spectral response measurements, it can be an important addition to the toolbox of analytical methods for material research for future solar energy conversion systems. Quantifying transport and loss mechanisms is a key step in producing high-efficiency solar energy conversion and storage devices. Empirical extraction of the spatial collection efficiency under real operating conditions is a useful analytical tool for studying such processes. We describe how the spatial collection efficiency can be extracted and apply the method to a α-Fe2O3 water splitting photoanode. The extracted spatial collection efficiency profiles provide significant insights on driving forces and the advanced optoelectronic properties of α-Fe2O3.