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Sonochemistry for high-efficiency solar cells

EU-funded scientists provided new ways to engineer the electronic structure of matter at the nanoscale. Results offer semiconductor nanoparticles the opportunity to be processed into efficient solar cells that can store energy for later use.
Sonochemistry for high-efficiency solar cells
In the context of the project SONO ENGINEERING (Electronic structures sono-engineering of semiconductor nanoparticles for efficient solar energy exploitation), researchers experimented with ultrasonication as a thermal treatment technique to effectively engineer the electronic structures of colloidal semiconductor nanoparticles.

In particular, the focus was on sonochemical synthesis of nanoparticles. Sonochemistry uses high-frequency sound waves for chemical processes, and the mechanism causing sonochemical effects in liquids is based on the phenomenon of cavitation.

Using this technique, scientists further investigated the physics of acoustic bubbles and especially the energy release during bubble collapse. The first approach sonicated hydrophilic nanoparticles directly in an oil phase to engineer small nanoparticles that are below 100 nm. Another method was to modify zinc oxide nanoparticles by copolymers and attract them to the surface of cavitation bubbles. Finally, the team introduced oppositely charged surfactants so that nanoparticles would become hydrophobic.

Scientists also experimented with sonicating carbon nitride nanorods for photoelectrochemical water splitting. Although ultrasonication proved that it can influence their electronic structure, the engineered nanorods were found to have weak photoactivity. The team modified the synthesis technique of graphitic carbon nitride films, which are used as electrode materials to increase conductivity. Exploiting the strong affinity of the graphitic carbon nitride film to the fluorine-doped tin oxide glass substrate, the project team reported the highest value of photocurrent density for photoelectrochemical devices based on this electrode material.

SONO ENGINEERING succeeded in exploiting interfaces of cavitation bubbles for the synthesis of different types of nanomaterials ranging from nanoparticles to nanoengineered capsules. They also synthesised porous protein capsules at the cavitation interfaces through sonochemistry. Further research revealed that the protein pore sizes are adjustable by putting capsules into different pH environments, indicating their potential in drug loading and release.

Related information

Keywords

Sonochemistry, solar cells, semiconductor nanoparticles, SONO ENGINEERING, ultrasonication, cavitation
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