All-Carbon Nanotube Solar Cell Devices Mimic Photosynthesis

Gideon Oyibo, Thomas Barrett, Sharadh Jois, Jeffrey Blackburn, Ji Ung Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus Citations


Both solar cells and photosynthetic systems employ a two-step process of light absorption and energy conversion. In photosynthesis, they are performed by distinct proteins. However, conventional solar cells use the same semiconductor for optical absorption and electron-hole separation, leading to inefficiencies. Here, we show that an all-semiconducting single-walled carbon nanotube (s-SWCNTs) device provides an artificial system that models photosynthesis in a tandem geometry. We use distinct chirality s-SWCNTs to separate the site and direction of light absorption from those of power generation. Using different bandgap s-SWCNTs, we implement an energy funnel in dual-gated p-n diodes. The device captures photons from multiple regions of the solar spectrum and funnels photogenerated excitons to the smallest bandgap s-SWCNT layer, where they become free carriers. We demonstrate an increase in the photoresponse by adding more s-SWCNT layers of different bandgaps without a corresponding deleterious increase in the dark leakage current.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)9100-9106
Number of pages7
JournalNano Letters
Issue number22
StatePublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 American Chemical Society. All rights reserved.

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5K00-83761


  • carbon nanotube
  • energy transfer
  • excitons
  • photosynthesis
  • photovoltaic


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