, Volume 22, Issue 1, pp 3-16

New materials and structures for photovoltaics

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Abstract

Despite the fact that over the years crystal chemists have discovered numerous semiconducting substances, and that modern epitaxial growth techniques are able to produce many novel atomic-scale architectures, current electronic and opto-electronic technologies are based but on a handful of ∼10 traditional semiconductor core materials. This paper surveys a number of yet-unexploited classes of semiconductors, pointing to the much-needed research in screening, growing, and characterizing promising members of these classes. In light of the unmanageably large number of a-priori possibilities, we emphasize the role that structural chemistry and modern computer-aided design must play in screening potentially important candidates. The basic classes of materials discussed here include nontraditional alloys, such as non-isovalent and heterostructural semiconductors, materials at reduced dimensionality, including superlattices, zeolite-caged nanostructures and organic semiconductors, spontaneously ordered alloys, interstitial semiconductors, filled tetrahedral structures, ordered vacancy compounds, and compounds based on d and f electron elements. A collaborative effort among material predictor, material grower, and material characterizer holds the promise for a successful identification of new and exciting systems.