University of Toronto researchers have combined two promising solar cell materials together for the first time, creating a new platform for LED technology.
The team designed a way to embed strongly luminescent nanoparticles called colloidal quantum dots (the chocolate chips) into perovskite (the oatmeal cookie). Perovskites are a family of materials that can be easily manufactured from solution, and that allow electrons to move swiftly through them with minimal loss or capture by defects.
The result is a black crystal that relies on the perovskite matrix to ‘funnel’ electrons into the quantum dots, which are extremely efficient at converting electricity to light. Hyper-efficient LED technologies could enable applications from the visible-light LED bulbs in every home, to new displays, to gesture recognition using near-infrared wavelengths.
“When you try to jam two different crystals together, they often form separate phases without blending smoothly into each other,” says Dr. Riccardo Comin, a post-doctoral fellow in the Sargent Group. “We had to design a new strategy to convince these two components to forget about their differences and to rather intermix into forming a unique crystalline entity.”
The resulting heterogeneous material is the basis for a new family of highly energy-efficient near-infrared LEDs. Infrared LEDs can be harnessed for improved night-vision technology, to better biomedical imaging, to high-speed telecommunications.
Nature - Quantum-dot-in-perovskite solids
Combining the two materials in this way also solves the problem of self-absorption, which occurs when a substance partly re-absorbs the same spectrum of energy that it emits, with a net efficiency loss. “These dots in perovskite don’t suffer reabsorption, because the emission of the dots doesn’t overlap with the absorption spectrum of the perovskite,” explains Comin.
Gong, Comin and the team deliberately designed their material to be compatible with solution-processing, so it could be readily integrated with the most inexpensive and commercially practical ways of manufacturing solar film and devices. Their next step is to build and test the hardware to capitalize on the concept they have proven with this work.
“We’re going to build the LED device and try to beat the record power efficiency reported in the literature,” says Gong.
Theoretical model of perovskite epitaxial growth on CQDs.
Heteroepitaxy—atomically aligned growth of a crystalline film atop a different crystalline substrate—is the basis of electrically driven lasers, multijunction solar cells, and blue-light-emitting diodes. Crystalline coherence is preserved even when atomic identity is modulated, a fact that is the critical enabler of quantum wells, wires, and dots. The interfacial quality achieved as a result of heteroepitaxial growth allows new combinations of materials with complementary properties, which enables the design and realization of functionalities that are not available in the single-phase constituents. Here we show that organohalide perovskites and preformed colloidal quantum dots, combined in the solution phase, produce epitaxially aligned ‘dots-in-a-matrix’ crystals. Using transmission electron microscopy and electron diffraction, we reveal heterocrystals as large as about 60 nanometres and containing at least 20 mutually aligned dots that inherit the crystalline orientation of the perovskite matrix. The heterocrystals exhibit remarkable optoelectronic properties that are traceable to their atom-scale crystalline coherence: photoelectrons and holes generated in the larger-bandgap perovskites are transferred with 80% efficiency to become excitons in the quantum dot nanocrystals, which exploit the excellent photocarrier diffusion of perovskites to produce bright-light emission from infrared-bandgap quantum-tuned materials. By combining the electrical transport properties of the perovskite matrix with the high radiative efficiency of the quantum dots, we engineer a new platform to advance solution-processed infrared optoelectronics.