UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

A thin-film of mechanochemically synthesized nanoparticles : an experimental and theoretical exploration of an absorber compound for photovoltaic devices Bednar, Victor Bradley


Nearly 200 years after the discovery of the photovoltaic effect, harvesting energy from the sun is finally becoming a price competitive marketing option for power generation. Government and private investments, motivated by a social awareness of environmental issues cause by prominent power generation methods, have helped create this opportunity to advance earth conscientious, green energy solutions. As inorganic nanoparticles in solar cell layers are one of the forefront areas of interest for solar cell research, mechanochemical material synthesis has been used for a scalable production of Fe₂GeS₄ nanoparticles carried out via ball milling. The compound is composed of earth-abundant materials, and ball milling allows for a solution free process, which minimizes chemical waste from material synthesis. The viability of this promising compound has been previously mentioned and herein confirmed. X-Ray Powder Diffraction (XRD) showed a successful synthesis, and optical characterization confirmed favorable absorption properties for solar cell implementation. New methods were implemented in doping the nanoparticles, which lead to an observable photovoltaic response from a simple prototype architecture implementing the Fe₂GeS₄ nanoparticles. The thin film deposition of the nanoparticles used for prototype implementation should allow for cost effective and scalable manufacturing. Since ball milling is also cost effective and scalable, an empirical model implementing probabilistic logic is developed and shown as capable to fit experimental data via measurable parameters. The eventual optimization possibilities for minimizing manufacturing costs, as well as enhancement of general scientific understanding for an underrepresented branch of theory, mechanochemical solid state reactions, motivated this work. Modeling of Fe₂GeS₄ production, as a solid state chemical reaction, demonstrates a proof of principle application. Potential applications are not limited to mechanochemical synthesis. Extensions to other reaction types are possible as the model utilizes chemical kinetics theory in a generalized fashion. The demonstration focuses on a sigmoid trend, as observed in Fe₂GeS₄ synthesis, though other profiles are attainable.

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