Photovoltaic performance of ultrasmall PbSe quantum dots

Wanli Ma, Sarah L. Swisher, Trevor Ewers, Jesse Engel, Vivian E. Ferry, Harry A. Atwater, A. Paul Alivisatos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

193 Scopus citations


We investigated the effect of PbSe quantum dot size on the performance of Schottky solar cells made in an ITO/PEDOT/PbSe/aluminum structure, varying the PbSe nanoparticle diameter from 1 to 3 nm. In this highly confined regime, we find that the larger particle bandgap can lead to higher open-circuit voltages (∼0.6 V), and thus an increase in overall efficiency compared to previously reported devices of this structure. To carry out this study, we modified existing synthesis methods to obtain ultrasmall PbSe nanocrystals with diameters as small as 1 nm, where the nanocrystal size is controlled by adjusting the growth temperature. As expected, we find that photocurrent decreases with size due to reduced absorption and increased recombination, but we also find that the open-circuit voltage begins to decrease for particles with diameters smaller than 2 nm, most likely due to reduced collection efficiency. Owing to this effect, we find peak performance for devices made with PbSe dots with a first exciton energy of ∼1.6 eV (2.3 nm diameter), with a typical efficiency of 3.5%, and a champion device efficiency of 4.57%. Comparing the external quantum efficiency of our devices to an optical model reveals that the photocurrent is also strongly affected by the coherent interference in the thin film due to Fabry-Pérot cavity modes within the PbSe layer. Our results demonstrate that even in this simple device architecture, fine-tuning of the nanoparticle size can lead to substantial improvements in efficiency.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8140-8147
Number of pages8
JournalACS nano
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 25 2011


  • PbSe
  • photovoltaic
  • quantum dot
  • quantum size effect
  • solar cell


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