Nature Communications

Ultrathin high band gap solar cells with improved efficiencies from the world's oldest photovoltaic material

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Selenium was used in the first solid state solar cell in 1883 and gave early insights into the photoelectric effect that inspired Einstein's Nobel Prize work; however, the latest efficiency milestone of 5.0% was more than 30 years ago. The recent surge of interest towards high-band gap absorbers for tandem applications led us to reconsider this attractive 1.95 eV material. Here, we show completely redesigned selenium devices with improved back and front interfaces optimized through combinatorial studies and demonstrate record open-circuit voltage (V OC) of 970 mV and efficiency of 6.5% under 1 Sun. In addition, Se devices are air-stable, non-toxic, and extremely simple to fabricate. The absorber layer is only 100 nm thick, and can be processed at 200 °C, allowing temperature compatibility with most bottom substrates or sub-cells. We analyze device limitations and find significant potential for further improvement making selenium an attractive high-band-gap absorber for multi-junction device applications.