Quantization Effects in Semiconductor Nanostructures and Singlet Fission in Molecular Chromophores for Photovoltaics and Solar Fuels: Article No. 021305

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Hot carriers in semiconductors are electrons and/or holes that have energies greater than carriers that reside at the top and bottom of the conduction and valence bands, respectively; the latter carriers are in equilibrium with the lattice and have a temperature equal to the lattice (ambient) temperature. Hot carriers are created in semiconductors upon the absorption of photons with energies greater than the bandgap. The excess energy above the bandgap energy is in the form of kinetic energy. The hot carriers can cool to the lattice temperature via electron–phonon scattering and establish separate Boltzmann distributions for electrons and holes at the band edges. Thus, upon cooling, the excess kinetic energy of the hot carriers is transformed into heat and is unavailable to be converted into electrical or chemical free energy in a solar photon-converting cell. This hot-carrier cooling process significantly limits the maximum possible power conversion efficiency (PCE) of the free energy of solar photons into electrical free energy or chemical free energy in chemical bonds of fuels. However, if hot-carrier cooling can be slowed such that the hot carriers can be extracted before cooling to create higher photovoltages, or utilized to create additional electron-hole pairs through carrier multiplication, then beneficial use can be made of the excess energy of hot carriers and the maximum thermodynamic PCE can be dramatically increased. Quantization effects in semiconductor nanostructures, unique properties of some bulk semiconductors, and exciton multiplication in both semiconductors and molecular chromophores that undergo singlet fission have shown a path forward for potential dramatic increases in the PCEs of solar photons into electricity and solar fuels. The status, history, and future promise of the science and technology of these future approaches for different types of photovoltaic cells and cells for solar fuels will be discussed.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages23
JournalChemical Physics Reviews
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2021

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5900-78562


  • buried junctions
  • future generation solar cells
  • high power conversion efficiency
  • hot carrier solar cells
  • multiple exciton generation
  • PV
  • quantization effects
  • singlet fission
  • solar fuels


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