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Acc Chem Res. 2016 Feb 16;49(2):303-10. doi: 10.1021/acs.accounts.5b00436. Epub 2016 Jan 12.

Lead Halide Perovskite Photovoltaic as a Model p-i-n Diode.

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Global Research Center for Environment and Energy based on Nanomaterials Science (GREEN), National Institute for Materials Science (NIMS) , 1-1 Namiki, Tsukuba, Ibaraki 305-0044, Japan.
Photovoltaic Materials Unit, National Institute for Materials Science (NIMS) , 1-2-1 Sengen, Tsukuba, Ibaraki 305-0047, Japan.


The lead halide perovskite photovoltaic cells, especially the iodide compound CH3NH3PbI3 family, exhibited enormous progress in the energy conversion efficiency in the past few years. Although the first attempt to use the perovskite was as a sensitizer in a dye-sensitized solar cell, it has been recognized at the early stage of the development that the working of the perovskite photovoltaics is akin to that of the inorganic thin film solar cells. In fact, theoretically perovskite is always treated as an ordinary direct band gap semiconductor and hence the perovskite photovoltaics as a p-i-n diode. Despite this recognition, research effort along this line of thought is still in pieces and incomplete. Different measurements have been applied to different types of devices (different not only in the materials but also in the cell structures), making it difficult to have a coherent picture. To make the situation worse, the perovskite photovoltaics have been plagued by the irreproducible optoelectronic properties, most notably the sweep direction dependent current-voltage relationship, the hysteresis problem. Under such circumstances, it is naturally very difficult to analyze the data. Therefore, we set out to make hysteresis-free samples and apply time-tested models and numerical tools developed in the field of inorganic semiconductors. A series of electrical measurements have been performed on one type of CH3NH3PbI3 photovoltaic cells, in which a special attention was paid to ensure that their electronic reproducibility was better than the fitting error in the numerical analysis. The data can be quantitatively explained in terms of the established models of inorganic semiconductors: current/voltage relationship can be very well described by a two-diode model, while impedance spectroscopy revealed the presence of a thick intrinsic layer with the help of a numerical solver, SCAPS, developed for thin film solar cell analysis. These results point to that CH3NH3PbI3 is an ideal intrinsic semiconductor, which happens to be very robust against accidental doping, and that the perovskite photovoltaic cell is in fact a model p-i-n diode. The analytical methods and diagnostic tools available in the inorganic semiconductor PV cells are useful and should be fully exploited in the effort of improving the efficiency. One outstanding question is why the perovskite stays intrinsic. Considering the defects and impurities that must abound in the perovskite layers formed by the spin-coating process, for example, there must be physicochemical mechanism keeping it from being doped. This may be related to the special band structure making up the band gap in this ionic solid. Understanding the mechanism may open a door for the wider utility of this class of solid.

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