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Title: CEEM Final Technical Report

The mission of the Center for Energy Efficient Materials (CEEM) was to serve the Department of Energy and the nation as a center of excellence dedicated to advancing basic research in nano-structured materials and devices for applications to solar electricity, thermoelectric conversion of waste heat to electricity, and solidstate lighting. The foundation of CEEM was based on the unique capabilities of UCSB and its partner institutions to control, synthesize, characterize, model, and apply materials at the nanoscale for more efficient sustainable energy resources. This unique expertise was a key source of the synergy that unified the research of the Center. Although the Center’s focus was basic research, It’s longer-term objective has been to transfer new materials and devices into the commercial sector where they will have a substantial impact on the nation’s need for efficient sustainable energy resources. As one measure of the impact of the Center, two start-up companies were formed based on its research. In addition, Center participants published a total of 210 archival journal articles, of which 51 were exclusively sponsored by the DOE grant. The work of the Center was structured around four specific tasks: Organic Solar Cells, Solid-State Lighting, Thermoelectrics, and High Efficiency Multi-junction Photovoltaicmore » devices. A brief summary of each follows – detailed descriptions are in Sections 4 & 5 of this report. Research supported through CEEM led to an important shift with respect to the choice of materials used for the fabrication of solution deposited organic solar cells. Solution deposition opens the opportunity to manufacture solar cells via economically-viable high throughput tools, such as roll to roll printing. Prior to CEEM, most organic semiconductors utilized for this purpose involved polymeric materials, which, although they can form thin films reliably, suffer from batch to batch variations due to the statistical nature of the chemical reactions that produce them. In response, the CEEM team developed well-defined molecular semiconductors that produce active layers with very high power conversion efficiencies, in other words they can convert a very high fraction of sunlight into useful electrical power. The fact that the semiconductor is formed from molecular species provides the basis for circumventing the unreliability of polymer counterparts and, as an additional bonus, allows one to attain much grater insight into the structure of the active layer. The latter is particularly important because efficient conversion is the result of a complex arrangement of two semiconductors that need to phase separate in a way akin to oil and water, but with domains that are described by nanoscale dimensions. CEEM was therefore able to provide deep insight into the influence of nanostructure, through the application of structural characterization tools and theoretical methods that describe how electrical charges migrate through the organic layer. Our research in light emitting diode (LED)-based solid state lighting (SSL) was directed at improving efficiency and reducing costs to enable the widespread deployment of economically-viable replacements for inefficient incandescent, halogen, and fluorescent-based lighting. Our specific focus was to advance the fundamental science and technology of light emitting diodes to both understand factors that limit efficiencies and to provide innovative and viable solutions to the current impediments. One of the main challenges we faced is the decrease in efficiency when LEDs are driven harder to increase light output---the so called “droop” effect. It requires large emitting surfaces to reach a desired optical output, and necessitates the use of costly heat sinks, both of which increase the cost. We successfully reduced droop by growing LED crystals having non-conventional orientations. As recognized by the award of the 2014 Nobel prize to the inventors of the nitride LEDs (one of whom was a member of CEEM), LEDs already have a large societal impact in both developed (leading to large energy savings) and developing countries (bringing light where there is no electrical grid). The improvements in efficiency sought after in the CEEM project are key to a further impact of solid state lighting by LEDs with a projected doubling in efficiency by year 2020. Direct generation of electricity from heat has enormous promise for beneficial use of waste heat. But practical power generation directly from heat requires understanding and development of new and improved materials that will be more efficient and rugged than today’s thermoelectric materials. To accomplish this goal CEEM has synthesized five distinct and promising new classes of thermoelectric materials: (a) nanoparticle arrays that are effective in maximizing electric power generation and reducing detrimental loss of heat; (b) nitride and (c) oxide thermal electric materials that are effective at high temperatures where much beneficial heat is available; (d) arrays of silicon nano-wires that integrate thermal electricity generation into silicon-based electronics and materials; and (e) chemically synthesized nanostructured compounds that are cost effective, earth abundant, and environmentally friendly. The further development of these thermoelectric sources of electricity could have revolutionary impact for society in the recovery of waste heat from sources such as power plants and automobile exhaust, where there could be significant associated energy saving. It could even, in the future, provide disruptive alternatives and replacements for today’s internal combustion engines and could enable improved all-electric propulsion by the heat from shipboard nuclear reactors. The High Efficiency Multi-junction Photovoltaics task was a UCSB/NREL collaboration which bonded sub-cells from two different compound semiconductors material systems to make high efficiency multijunction solar cells for concentrating photovoltaic applications thathave substantially higher efficiency than single substrate cells made of elemental semiconductors such as silicon. This task required the development of new cell bonding methods with excellent coupling of both photons and electrons between the sub-cells. To accomplish this, we developed (1) GaInN solar cells with enhanced performance by using quantum-well absorbers and front-surface optical texturing, (2) a hybrid "pillar-array" bond which uses an array of metal pillars for electrical coupling, and (3) a "hybrid moth-eye" optical coating which combines the benefits of nano-imprinted moth-eye coatings and traditional multilayer coatings. The technical effectiveness was assessed by measurement of the photovoltaic efficiency of solar cells made using these techniques; the ultrahigh efficiencies targeted by this work are of compelling economic value for concentrating photovoltaics.« less
  1. Univ. of California, Santa Barbara, CA (United States)
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
Report Number(s):
DOE Contract Number:
Resource Type:
Technical Report
Research Org:
University of California, Santa Barbara, CA (United States)
Sponsoring Org:
USDOE Office of Science (SC), Basic Energy Sciences (BES) (SC-22)
Country of Publication:
United States
36 MATERIALS SCIENCE; 14 SOLAR ENERGY; 25 ENERGY STORAGE; 30 DIRECT ENERGY CONVERSION; 77 NANOSCIENCE AND NANOTECHNOLOGY Organic Solar Cells, Solid-State Lighting, Thermoelectrics, and High Efficiency Multi-junction Photovoltaic devices.