Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2011

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Chemistry & Biochemistry

First Advisor

Arthur J. Nozik

Second Advisor

David Jonas

Third Advisor

Niels H. Damrauer

Abstract

Providing affordable, clean energy is one of the major challenges facing society today, and one of the promising solutions is third generation solar energy conversion. Present day, first and second-generation solar cells can at most convert each absorbed photon into a single electron hole pair, thereby establishing a theoretical limit to the power conversion efficiency. The process of multiple exciton generation (MEG) in semiconductor quantum dots increases that theoretical efficiency from 33% to 42% by utilizing the excess energy of high energy photons that is otherwise wasted as heat to excite a second electron-hole pair, thereby boosting the potential photocurrent. This thesis explores the benefits of MEG in quantum confined systems and shows that quantum dots are more efficient at generating multiple excitons from a single photon than bulk semiconductors. The variations in optical measurements of MEG have raised skepticism and brought into question the validity of these experiments. The two important questions that this thesis attempts to address are (1) what are the enhanced QYs in isolated PbSe QDs and (2) does quantum confinement enhance MEG over bulk semiconductors. Experimental variations in the enhanced QYs are partially explained by the production of a long-lived photocharged state that increases the apparent photon-to-exciton QYs. A procedure is detailed that decreases the possibility of producing this charged state. By studying the production of these states, conditions are found that minimize their effect and produce less variation in the reported QYs. Variations in the MEG efficiency were studied in films of chemically treated PbSe quantum dots where a different mechanism was responsible for an apparent decrease of the measured QYs. Finally, for the first time, a quantum dot size-dependence in the MEG efficiency was found in colloidal PbSe, PbS, and PbSxSe1-x quantum dot solutions and is attributed to the increased Coulomb interaction in materials with a larger Bohr exciton radius. These results will allow a better understanding of MEG and how this important process may be used to enhance solar energy conversion.

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