Organolead trihalide perovskite materials have been successfully used as light absorbers in efficient photovoltaic cells. Two different cell structures, based on mesoscopic metal oxides and planar heterojunctions have already demonstrated very impressive advances in performance. Here, we report a bilayer architecture comprising the key features of mesoscopic and planar structures obtained by a fully solution-based process. We used CH3NH3 Pb(I1-xBrx)(3) (x = 0.1-0.15) as the absorbing layer and poly(triarylamine) as a hole-transporting material. The use of a mixed solvent of gamma-butyrolactone and dimethylsulphoxide (DMSO) followed by toluene drop-casting leads to extremely uniform and dense perovskite layers via a CH3NH3I-PbI2-DMSO intermediate phase, and enables the fabrication of remarkably improved solar cells with a certified power-conversion efficiency of 16.2% and no hysteresis. These results provide important progress towards the understanding of the role of solution-processing in the realization of low-cost and highly efficient perovskite solar cells.
The remarkable performance of lead halide perovskites in solar cells can be attributed to the long carrier lifetimes and low non-radiative recombination rates, the same physical properties that are ideal for semiconductor lasers. Here, we show room-temperature and wavelength-tunable lasing from single-crystal lead halide perovskite nanowires with very low lasing thresholds (220 nJ cm(-2)) and high quality factors (Q similar to 3,600). The lasing threshold corresponds to a charge carrier density as low as 1.5 x 1016 cm(-3). Kinetic analysis based on time-resolved fluorescence reveals little charge carrier trapping in these single-crystal nanowires and gives estimated lasing quantum yields approaching 100%. Such lasing performance, coupled with the facile solution growth of single-crystal nanowires and the broad stoichiometry-dependent tunability of emission colour, makes lead halide perovskites ideal materials for the development of nanophotonics, in parallel with the rapid development in photovoltaics from the same materials.
Since its first isolation in 2004, graphene has become one of the hottest topics in the field of materials science, and its highly appealing properties have led to a plethora of scientific papers. Among the many affected areas of materials science, this ` graphene fever' has influenced particularly the world of electrochemical energy-storage devices. Despite widespread enthusiasm, it is not yet clear whether graphene could really lead to progress in the field. Here we discuss the most recent applications of graphene both as an active material and as an inactive component - from lithium-ion batteries and electrochemical capacitors to emerging technologies such as metal-air and magnesium-ion batteries. By critically analysing state-of-the-art technologies, we aim to address the benefits and issues of graphene-based materials, as well as outline the most promising results and applications so far.
Spurred by recent progress in materials chemistry and drug delivery, stimuli-responsive devices that deliver a drug in spatial-, temporal-and dosage-controlled fashions have become possible. Implementation of such devices requires the use of biocompatible materials that are susceptible to a specific physical incitement or that, in response to a specific stimulus, undergo a protonation, a hydrolytic cleavage or a (supra) molecular conformational change. In this Review, we discuss recent advances in the design of nanoscale stimuli-responsive systems that are able to control drug biodistribution in response to specific stimuli, either exogenous (variations in temperature, magnetic field, ultrasound intensity, light or electric pulses) or endogenous (changes in pH, enzyme concentration or redox gradients).
Conventional optical components such as lenses, waveplates and holograms rely on light propagation over distances much larger than the wavelength to shape wavefronts. In this way substantial changes of the amplitude, phase or polarization of light waves are gradually accumulated along the optical path. This Review focuses on recent developments on flat, ultrathin optical components dubbed 'metasurfaces' that produce abrupt changes over the scale of the free-space wavelength in the phase, amplitude and/or polarization of a light beam. Metasurfaces are generally created by assembling arrays of miniature, anisotropic light scatterers (that is, resonators such as optical antennas). The spacing between antennas and their dimensions are much smaller than the wavelength. As a result the metasurfaces, on account of Huygens principle, are able to mould optical wavefronts into arbitrary shapes with subwavelength resolution by introducing spatial variations in the optical response of the light scatterers. Such gradient metasurfaces go beyond the well-established technology of frequency selective surfaces made of periodic structures and are extending to new spectral regions the functionalities of conventional microwave and millimetre-wave transmit-arrays and reflect-arrays. Metasurfaces can also be created by using ultrathin films of materials with large optical losses. By using the controllable abrupt phase shifts associated with reflection or transmission of light waves at the interface between lossy materials, such metasurfaces operate like optically thin cavities that strongly modify the light spectrum. Technology opportunities in various spectral regions and their potential advantages in replacing existing optical components are discussed.
Natural structural materials are built at ambient temperature from a fairly limited selection of components. They usually comprise hard and soft phases arranged in complex hierarchical architectures, with characteristic dimensions spanning from the nanoscale to the macroscale. The resulting materials are lightweight and often display unique combinations of strength and toughness, but have proven difficult to mimic synthetically. Here, we review the common design motifs of a range of natural structural materials, and discuss the difficulties associated with the design and fabrication of synthetic structures that mimic the structural and mechanical characteristics of their natural counterparts.
Low-temperature solution-processed materials that show optical gain and can be embedded into a wide range of cavity resonators are attractive for the realization of on-chip coherent light sources. Organic semiconductors and colloidal quantum dots are considered the main candidates for this application. However, stumbling blocks in organic lasing(1-4) include intrinsic losses from bimolecular annihilation and the conflicting requirements of high charge carrier mobility and large stimulated emission; whereas challenges pertaining to Auger losses and charge transport in quantum dots(5-7) still remain. Herein, we reveal that solution-processed organic-inorganic halide perovskites (CH3NH3PbX3 where X = Cl, Br, I), which demonstrated huge potential in photovoltaics(8-11), also have promising optical gain. Their ultra-stable amplified spontaneous emission at strikingly low thresholds stems from their large absorption coeffcients, ultralow bulk defect densities and slow Auger recombination. Straightforward visible spectral tunability (390-790 nm) is demonstrated. Importantly, in view of their balanced ambipolar charge transport characteristics(8), these materials may show electrically driven lasing.
The rise of metal halide perovskites as light harvesters has stunned the photovoltaic community. As the efficiency race continues, questions on the control of the performance of perovskite solar cells and on its characterization are being addressed.
Layer-by-layer stacking or lateral interfacing of atomic monolayers has opened up unprecedented opportunities to engineer two-dimensional heteromaterials. Fabrication of such artificial heterostructures with atomically clean and sharp interfaces, however, is challenging. Here, we report a one-step growth strategy for the creation of high-quality vertically stacked as well as in-plane interconnected heterostructures ofWS(2)/MoS2 via control of the growth temperature. Vertically stacked bilayers with WS2 epitaxially grown on top of the MoS2 monolayer are formed with preferred stacking order at high temperature. A strong interlayer excitonic transition is observed due to the type II band alignment and to the clean interface of these bilayers. Vapour growth at low temperature, on the other hand, leads to lateral epitaxy of WS2 on MoS2 edges, creating seamless and atomically sharp in-plane heterostructures that generate strong localized photoluminescence enhancement and intrinsic p-n junctions. The fabrication of heterostructures from monolayers, using simple and scalable growth, paves the way for the creation of unprecedented two-dimensional materials with exciting properties.
As a promising non-precious catalyst for the hydrogen evolution reaction (HER; refs 1-5), molybdenum disulphide (MoS2) is known to contain active edge sites and an inert basal plane(1,6-8). Activating the MoS2 basal plane could further enhance its HER activity but is not often a strategy for doing so. Herein, we report the first activation and optimization of the basal plane of monolayer 2H-MoS2 for HER by introducing sulphur (S) vacancies and strain. Our theoretical and experimental results show that the S-vacancies are new catalytic sites in the basal plane, where gap states around the Fermi level allow hydrogen to bind directly to exposed Mo atoms. The hydrogen adsorption free energy (Delta G(H)) can be further manipulated by straining the surface with S-vacancies, which fine-tunes the catalytic activity. Proper combinations of S-vacancy and strain yield the optimal Delta G(H) = 0 eV, which allows us to achieve the highest intrinsic HER activity among molybdenum-sulphide-based catalysts.
Following the first experimental realization of graphene, other ultrathin materials with unprecedented electronic properties have been explored, with particular attention given to the heavy group-IV elements Si, Ge and Sn. Two-dimensional buckled Si-based silicene has been recently realized by molecular beam epitaxy growth, whereas Ge-based germanene was obtained by molecular beam epitaxy and mechanical exfoliation. However, the synthesis of Sn-based stanene has proved challenging so far. Here, we report the successful fabrication of 2D stanene by molecular beam epitaxy, confirmed by atomic and electronic characterization using scanning tunnelling microscopy and angle-resolved photoemission spectroscopy, in combination with first-principles calculations. The synthesis of stanene and its derivatives will stimulate further experimental investigation of their theoretically predicted properties, such as a 2D topological insulating behaviour with a very large bandgap, and the capability to support enhanced thermoelectric performance, topological superconductivity and the near-room-temperature quantum anomalous Hall effect.
Solution processing is a promising route for the realization of low-cost, large-area, flexible and lightweight photovoltaic devices with short energy payback time and high specific power. However, solar cells based on solution-processed organic, inorganic and hybrid materials reported thus far generally suffer from poor air stability, require an inert-atmosphere processing environment or necessitate high-temperature processing(1), all of which increase manufacturing complexities and costs. Simultaneously fulfilling the goals of high efficiency, low-temperature fabrication conditions and good atmospheric stability remains a major technical challenge, which may be addressed, as we demonstrate here, with the development of room-temperature solution-processed ZnO/PbS quantum dot solar cells. By engineering the band alignment of the quantum dot layers through the use of different ligand treatments, a certified efficiency of 8.55% has been reached. Furthermore, the performance of unencapsulated devices remains unchanged for over 150 days of storage in air. This material system introduces a new approach towards the goal of high-performance air-stable solar cells compatible with simple solution processes and deposition on flexible substrates.
To progress from the laboratory to commercial applications, it will be necessary to develop industrially scalable methods to produce large quantities of defect-free graphene. Here we show that high-shear mixing of graphite in suitable stabilizing liquids results in large-scale exfoliation to give dispersions of graphene nanosheets. X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy and Raman spectroscopy show the exfoliated flakes to be unoxidized and free of basal-plane defects. We have developed a simple model that shows exfoliation to occur once the local shear rate exceeds 10(4) s(-1). By fully characterizing the scaling behaviour of the graphene production rate, we show that exfoliation can be achieved in liquid volumes from hundreds of millilitres up to hundreds of litres and beyond. The graphene produced by this method performs well in applications from composites to conductive coatings. This method can be applied to exfoliate BN, MoS2 and a range of other layered crystals.
Efficient evolution of hydrogen through electrocatalysis at low overpotentials holds tremendous promise for clean energy. Hydrogen evolution can be easily achieved by electrolysis at large potentials that can be lowered with expensive platinum-based catalysts. Replacement of Pt with inexpensive, earth-abundant electrocatalysts would be significantly beneficial for clean and efficient hydrogen evolution. To this end, promising results have been reported using 2H (trigonal prismatic) XS2 (where X = Mo or W) nanoparticles with a high concentration of metallic edges. The key challenges for XS2 are increasing the number and catalytic activity of active sites. Here we report monolayered nanosheets of chemically exfoliated WS2 as efficient catalysts for hydrogen evolution with very low overpotentials. Analyses indicate that the enhanced electrocatalytic activity of WS2 is associated with the high concentration of the strained metallic 1T (octahedral) phase in the as-exfoliated nanosheets. Our results suggest that chemically exfoliated WS2 nanosheets are interesting catalysts for hydrogen evolution.
Organolead trihalide perovskite (OTP) materials are emerging as naturally abundant materials for low-cost, solution-processed and highly effcient solar cells(1-9). Here, we show that, in OTP-based photovoltaic devices with vertical and lateral cell configurations, the photocurrent direction can be switched repeatedly by applying a small electric field of < 1V mu m(-1). The switchable photocurrent, generally observed in devices based on ferroelectric materials, reached 20.1 mAcm(-2) under one sun illumination in OTP devices with a vertical architecture, which is four orders of magnitude larger than lthat measured in other ferroelectric photovoltaic devices(10,11). This field-switchable photovoltaic effect can be explained by the formation of reversible p-i-n structures induced by ion drift in the perovskite layer. The demonstration of switchable OTP photovoltaics and electric-field-manipulated doping paves the way for innovative solar cell designs and for the exploitation of OTP materials in electrically and optically readable memristors and circuits.
Civilization continues to be transformed by our ability to harness energy beyond human and animal power. A series of industrial and agricultural revolutions have allowed an increasing fraction of the world population to heat and light their homes, fertilize and irrigate their crops, connect to one another and travel around the world. All of this progress is fuelled by our ability to find, extract and use energy with ever increasing dexterity. Research in materials science is contributing to progress towards a sustainable future based on clean energy generation, transmission and distribution, the storage of electrical and chemical energy, energy efficiency, and better energy management systems.
The advent of graphene and related 2D materials1,2 has recently led to a new technology: heterostructures based on these atomically thin crystals(3). The paradigm proved itself extremely versatile and led to rapid demonstration of tunnelling diodes with negative differential resistance(4), tunnelling transistors(5), photovoltaic devices(6,7) and so on. Here, we take the complexity and functionality of such van der Waals heterostructures to the next level by introducing quantum wells (QWs) engineered with one atomic plane precision. We describe light-emitting diodes (LEDs) made by stacking metallic graphene, insulating hexagonal boron nitride and various semiconducting monolayers into complex but carefully designed sequences. Our first devices already exhibit an extrinsic quantum efficiency of nearly 10% and the emission can be tuned over a wide range of frequencies by appropriately choosing and combining 2D semiconductors (monolayers of transition metal dichalcogenides). By preparing the heterostructures on elastic and transparent substrates, we show that they can also provide the basis for flexible and semi-transparent electronics. The range of functionalities for the demonstrated heterostructures is expected to grow further on increasing the number of available 2D crystals and improving their electronic quality.
Shape-morphing systems can be found in many areas, including smart textiles(1), autonomous robotics(2), biomedical devices(3), drug delivery(4) and tissue engineering(5). The natural analogues of such systems are exemplified by nastic plant motions, where a variety of organs such as tendrils, bracts, leaves and flowers respond to environmental stimuli (such as humidity, light or touch) by varying internal turgor, which leads to dynamic conformations governed by the tissue composition and microstructural anisotropy of cell walls(6-10). Inspired by these botanical systems, we printed composite hydrogel architectures that are encoded with localized, anisotropic swelling behaviour controlled by the alignment of cellulose fibrils along prescribed four-dimensional printing pathways. When combined with a minimal theoretical framework that allows us to solve the inverse problem of designing the alignment patterns for prescribed target shapes, we can programmably fabricate plant-inspired architectures that change shape on immersion in water, yielding complex three-dimensional morphologies.
The most widely used oxide for photocatalytic applications owing to its low cost and high activity is TiO2. The discovery of the photolysis of water on the surface of TiO2 in 1972(1) launched four decades of intensive research into the underlying chemical and physical processes involved(2-5). Despite much collected evidence, a thoroughly convincing explanation of why mixed-phase samples of anatase and rutile outperform the individual polymorphs has remained elusive(6). One long-standing controversy is the energetic alignment of the band edges of the rutile and anatase polymorphs of TiO2 (ref. 7). We demonstrate, through a combination of state-of-the-art materials simulation techniques and X-ray photoemission experiments, that a type-II, staggered, band alignment of similar to 0.4 eV exists between anatase and rutile with anatase possessing the higher electron affinity, or work function. Our results help to explain the robust separation of photoexcited charge carriers between the two phases and highlight a route to improved photocatalysts.
Two-dimensional (2D) transition metal dichalcogenides (TMDs) are emerging as a new platform for exploring 2D semiconductor physics(1-9). Reduced screening in two dimensions results in markedly enhanced electron-electron interactions, which have been predicted to generate giant bandgap renormalization and excitonic effects(10-13). Here we present a rigorous experimental observation of extraordinarily large exciton binding energy in a 2D semiconducting TMD. We determine the single-particle electronic bandgap of single-layer MoSe2 by means of scanning tunnelling spectroscopy (STS), as well as the two-particle exciton transition energy using photoluminescence (PL) spectroscopy. These yield an exciton binding energy of 0.55 eV for monolayer MoSe2 on graphene-orders of magnitude larger than what is seen in conventional 3D semiconductors and significantly higher than what we see for MoSe2 monolayers in more highly screening environments. This finding is corroborated by our ab initio GW and Bethe-Salpeter equation calculations(14,15) which include electron correlation effects. The renormalized bandgap and large exciton binding observed here will have a profound impact on electronic and optoelectronic device technologies based on single-layer semiconducting TMDs.