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Every Rose Has Its Thorn!
Luisa Whittaker (postdoc) and Yueh-Lin "Lynn" Loo (fac)
Dept. of Chemical and Biological Engineering
Hybrid inorganic/polymer-based photovoltaic nanodevices offer the promise of low-cost large-area conversion of solar energy to electricity. Nanostructures of zinc oxide have shown supreme capabilities in emerging technologies ranging from solar energy harvesting to biosensing. However, the ability to control the size and position of these nanostructures is crucial for fabricating nanodevices with remarkable properties and astonishing solar energy conversion efficiencies.

Here is a scanning electron micrograph of zinc oxide nanostructures prepared by low temperature hydrothermal methods. The nanoarray alas came out in this less-than-ideal flower-like configuration.

An ideal hybrid inorganic/polymer photovoltaic nanodevice is based on an interpenetrating network of inorganic and polymer semiconductors, with one functioning as an electron acceptor and the other as a donor. A perfectly assembled interpenetrating network ensures more effectives exciton dissociations at the interface. This suggests the need to carefully control the device morphology in order to enhance energy harvesting performances in hybrid solar cells.

Ultimately we were able to manufacture nanoarrays with the ideal configuration. However, they are much less interesting visually than this.