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Space-time visualization of photo-excited carrier dynamics in ferroelectric solar-energy converters by ultrafast electron microscopy

Project description

A high-resolution ‘movie’ of innovative photovoltaics’ dynamics via ultrafast electron microscopy

Solar energy will play an essential role in the green energy transition. The technology exploiting it has progressed tremendously in the nearly seven decades since the first practical silicon solar cell was demonstrated. Non-centrosymmetric ferroelectric perovskites have gained considerable interest for next-generation photovoltaics, but the exact mechanisms behind their giant photovoltaic response are not known. With the support of the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions Programme, the SpaceTimeFerro project will harness ultrafast electron pulses in a femtosecond electron microscope for nanometre spatial and femtosecond temporal resolutions. The resulting high-resolution ‘movie’ of the evolving electromagnetic field will reveal the origin of the anomalous bulk photovoltaic effect in perovskite ferroelectric oxides.


Giant bulk photovoltaic effect in non-centrosymmetric ferroelectric materials is currently gaining tremendous research interest due to its above-bandgap photovoltage and the observed output voltage is around 3-4 orders of magnitude higher than the Si-solar cells. Hence, the ferroelectric photovoltaic response is considered the next-generation photovoltaic device. However, researchers currently lack a profound understanding of the exact mechanism of the bulk photovoltaic effect, and the proposed mechanisms are contradictory to each other. This, in turn, restricts the progress of the field towards efficient solar cells. The difficult part of finding the exact mechanism is due to ultrafast carrier dynamics and atomic relaxation times are of the order of ≈ 0.1 to 10 femtoseconds, which made it experimentally inaccessible. At present, the excellent infrastructure and facilities of my host institute dealing with the ultrafast carrier dynamics can record the meticulous dynamics in space-time resolution and hence can provide the exact mechanism towards the above bandgap photovoltage in the ferroelectric system. Therefore, through this project, we are going to investigate the origin of the anomalous bulk photovoltaic effect in perovskite ferroelectric oxides by “filming” the ultrafast photo-absorption and subsequent photo-excited carrier relaxation dynamics with femtosecond time resolution and nanometre spatial resolution using laser-driven electron microscopy. In contrast to the spectroscopic approach, ultrafast electron pulses in a femtosecond electron microscope or diffraction apparatus can provide nanometre spatial and femtosecond temporal resolutions at the same time and hence can provide a movie of evolving electromagnetic field in space and time. Based on the data generated, a comprehensive physical mechanism will be put forth, which will act as guidance for the selection and design of future ferroelectric systems for an improved photovoltaic response.


Net EU contribution
€ 189 687,36
78464 Konstanz

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Baden-Württemberg Freiburg Konstanz
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
No data