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NEWS
Thin Films With Tantalizing Electronic Properties Created
January 9, 2020

Scientists have created thin films made from barium zirconium sulfide (BaZrS3) and confirmed that the materials have alluring electronic and optical properties predicted by theorists.


A barium zirconium sulfide thin film created by the research team. Credit: Douglas Levere / University at Buffalo.

The films combine exceptionally strong light absorption with good charge transport — two qualities that make them ideal for applications such as photovoltaics and light-emitting diodes (LEDs).

In solar panels, for example, experimental results suggest that BaZrS3 films would be much more efficient at converting sunlight into electricity than traditional silicon-based materials with identical thicknesses, says lead researcher Hao Zeng, PhD, professor of physics in the University at Buffalo College of Arts and Sciences. This could lower solar energy costs, especially because the new films performed admirably even when they had imperfections. (Manufacturing nearly flawless materials is typically more expensive, Dr. Zeng explains.)

“For many decades, there have been only a handful of semiconductor materials that have been used, with silicon being the dominant material,” Dr. Zeng says. “Our thin films open the door to a new direction in semiconductor research. There’s a chance to explore the potential of a whole new class of materials.”

The study was published recently in the journal Nano Energy.

The project was funded by a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) SunShot award and National Science Foundation (NSF) Sustainable Chemistry, Engineering and Materials award.

BaZrS3 belongs to a category of materials known as chalcogenide perovskites, which are nontoxic, earth-abundant compounds. In recent years, theorists have calculated that various chalcogenide perovskites should exhibit useful electronic and optical properties, and these predictions have captured the interest and imagination of experimentalists like Dr. Zeng.

According to information, the researchers crafted their BaZrS3 films by using a laser to heat up and vaporize barium zirconium oxide. The vapor was deposited on a sapphire surface, forming a film, and then converted into the final material through a chemical reaction called sulfurization.

In addition to the NSF and DOE, the research received support from the National Natural Science Foundation of China and the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration’s Laboratory Directed Research & Development program.


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