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Introducing the Photovoltaic Solar Cell Materials – Design, Fabrication and Testing Collection

With the need to shift away from fossil fuel usage, while at the same time supporting increasing global demands for energy, improving efficiency and lowering costs in renewable energy production is critical. Unlike wind energy or hydroelectric energy, solar energy is a relatively reliable source of energy. It is found across all areas of the planet and is the most abundant renewable energy source on earth. Photovoltaics play a pivotal role in harnessing this energy by transforming sunlight to electricity. We are therefore excited to present the PLOS Collection “Photovoltaic Solar Cell Materials – Design, Fabrication and Testing Collection”. This collection highlights the dynamic and multidisciplinary research in this area, showcasing promising new materials, as well as new approaches and techniques to create efficient solar cells.

The collection was curated by a team of Guest Editors with a wide range of experience and research specializations: Juan-Pablo Correa-Baena (Georgia Tech), David P. Fenning (University of California San Diego), Shuxia Tao (Eindhoven University of Technology), Maria Antonietta Loi (University of Groningen), Graeme Blake (University of Groningen), and Hongxia Wang (Queensland University of Technology).

Metal halide perovskite-based PV

Metal halide perovskite materials are increasingly demonstrating potential as semiconductor light absorbing materials in solar cells, as cost and energy-efficient alternatives to silicon. In their review, Wieghold and Nienhaus highlight the advantages of perovskite, as well as their current drawbacks with the aim of stimulating this relatively new field. A study by Rivas et al. demonstrates the effective use of cryo-focused ion beam technology to prepare perovskite-based solar cells, while Kirmani et al. investigate ways to improve the optoelectronic properties of perovskite crystals.

SEM cross section image of the full PSC stack obtained by FIB. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0227920.g004

New Solar Cell Material Technologies

Sulvanites, with their suitable band gap for solar absorption and relative earth-abundance may also be a promising candidate for solar cell use. In their study, Liu et al. synthesise sulvanite-based materials and evaluate their optoelectronic properties. Meanwhile, Yau et al. present a new method for generating graphene oxide, a material with excellent thermoconductivity and mechanical properties. The authors combined the optimized graphene with titanium oxide, to increase the absorption rate of excited dye in dye-sensitized solar cells.

(A) Low-resolution TEM images. (B) HRTEM images. (C) SEM image of synthesized CVSe NCs. (D-F) SEM–EDS elemental mapping of CVSe NCs. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0232184.g002

This multifaceted collection will serve to introduce readers to the world of photovoltaics, while linking the diverse community of researchers who are currently advancing the field.

Guest Editors

David Fenning

David is an Assistant Professor in the Department of NanoEngineering at UC San Diego, where he directs the Solar Energy Innovation Laboratory. His research focuses on defect engineering to improve performance and reliability in silicon and hybrid perovskite solar cells and on CO2 electrocatalysis for energy storage and green fuels. He specializes in the use of synchrotron-based X-ray microscopies to understand the relationships between local chemistry, structure, and performance in energy conversion materials.

Maria Antonietta Loi

Maria Antonietta studied physics at the University of Cagliari in Italy where she received a PhD in 2001. In the same year, she joined the Linz Institute for Organic Solar cells, of the University of Linz, Austria as a postdoctoral fellow. Later she worked as a researcher at the Institute for Nanostructured Materials of the Italian National Research Council in Bologna, Italy. In 2006, she became an assistant professor and Rosalind Franklin Fellow at the Zernike Institute for Advanced Materials of the University of Groningen, The Netherlands, where she is now full professor and chair of the Photophysics and OptoElectronics group. In 2018 she received the Physicaprijs from the Dutch physics association for her outstanding work on organic-inorganic hybrid materials

Hongxia Wang

Hongxia has a PhD degree in Condensed Matter Physics from the Institute of Physics, Chinese Academy of Science, Master’s degree and Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from the Central South University, China. She is currently a full Professor at Queensland University of Technology (QUT), Australia. Her research group is dedicated to the development of new routes to enhance the performance and stability of next generation solar cells, in particular perovskite solar cells and energy storage devices such as supercapacitors, through innovative material and device engineering. She was the recipient of several prestigious fellowships including the “Australian Research Council (ARC) Future Fellowship” and the “Australian Postdoctoral Fellowship (Industry)”.

Graeme Blake

Graeme is an Assistant Professor at the Zernike Institute for Advanced Materials, University of Groningen, Netherlands. He received his PhD in inorganic chemistry at the University of Oxford, then worked as a postdoc split between Argonne National Laboratory and the ISIS neutron scattering facility, UK, before joining the faculty at the University of Groningen. His research interests include the chemical synthesis and characterisation of hybrid perovskite-related materials, with a special focus on their crystallography. He is also interested in magnetic materials, especially multiferroic order, skyrmion phases, and magnetism arising from p-electrons in oxygen, and in addition, investigates the chemistry and physics of thermoelectric materials such as chalcogenides.

Want to find out more about the Guest Editors and their interests in this field? Read our interview with them here.

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