Thin film photovoltaic cells are increasingly important for cost-effective solar energy harvesting. Layered SnS is a promising absorber material due to its high optical absorption in the visible and good doping characteristics. We use first-principles calculations based on density functional theory to study structures of low-index surfaces of SnS using stoichiometric and oxygen-containing structural models, in order to elucidate their possible effect on the efficiency of the photovoltaic device. We find that the surface energy is minimized for the surface with orientation parallel to the layer stacking direction. Compared to stoichiometric surfaces, the oxygen-containing surfaces exhibit fewer electronic states near the band gap. This reduction of near-gap surface states by oxygen should reduce recombination losses at grain boundaries and interfaces of the SnS absorber, and should be beneficial to the efficiency of the solar cell.
The energy density of Li-ion batteries depends critically on the specific charge capacity of the constituent electrodes. Silicene, the silicon analogue to graphene, being of atomic thickness could serve as high-capacity host of Li in Li-ion secondary batteries. In this work, we employ first-principles calculations to investigate the interaction of Li with Si in model electrodes of free-standing single-layer and double-layer silicene. More specifically, we identify strong binding sites for Li, calculate the energy barriers accompanying Li diffusion, and present our findings in the context of previous theoretical work related to Liion storage in other structural forms of silicon: the bulk and nanowires. The binding energy of Li is ∼2.2 eV per Li atom and shows small variation with respect to Li content and silicene thickness (one or two layers) while the barriers for Li diffusion are relatively low, typically less than 0.6 eV. We use our theoretical findings to assess the suitability of two-dimensional silicon in the form of silicene layers for Li-ion storage.
SnS is a metal monochalcogenide suitable for use as absorber material in thin film photovoltaic cells. Its structure is an orthorhombic crystal of weakly coupled layers, each layer consisting of strongly bonded Sn-S units. We use first-principles calculations to study model single-layer, double-layer, and bulk structures of SnS in order to elucidate its electronic structure. We find that the optoelectronic properties of the material can vary significantly with respect to the number of layers and the separation between them: the calculated band gap is wider for fewer layers (2.72 eV, 1.57 eV, and 1.07 eV for single-layer, double-layer, and bulk SnS, respectively) and increases with tensile strain along the layer stacking direction (by ∼55 meV/1% strain).
The rate performance of lithium-ion secondary batteries depends critically on the kinetic transport of Li within the anode material. Here we use first-principles theoretical calculations to study the diffusion of Li in the low-concentration limit, using model electrodes of crystalline and four-fold coordinated bulk amorphous silicon. We identify Li diffusion pathways that have relatively low energy barriers (<0.50 eV) in amorphous silicon and discuss how diffusion at short (∼2.5 Å), intermediate (∼10 Å), and long (>1 nm) distances depends on the atomic-scale features of the silicon host. We find that both the energy barriers for diffusion and the topology of the atomic structure control the diffusion. We estimate the diffusion rate in amorphous Si anode to be comparable to the rate in crystalline Si anodes. These findings shed light on the wide range of reported experimental results for Li diffusion in Si anodes.
A tough material commonly used in coatings is diamond-like carbon (DLC), that is, amorphous carbon with content in four-fold coordinated C higher than ∼70%, and its composites with metal inclusions. This study aims to offer useful guidelines for the design and development of metal-containing DLC coatings for solar collectors, where the efficiency of the collector depends critically on the performance of the absorber coating. We use first-principles calculations based on density functional theory to study the structural, electronic, optical, and elastic properties of DLC and its composites with Ag and Cu inclusions at 1.5% and 3.0% atomic concentration, to evaluate their suitability for solar thermal energy harvesting. We find that with increasing metal concentration optical absorption is significantly enhanced while at the same time, the composite retains good mechanical strength: DLC with 70–80% content in four-fold coordinated C and small metal concentrations (<3 at. %) will show high absorption in the visible (absorption coefficients higher than 105 cm−1) and good mechanical strength (bulk and Young's modulus higher than 300 and 500 GPa, respectively).