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A Review on Graphene Based Inorganic Solar Cells

Soumyadeep Chakraborty, Dr.Masud H Chowdhury

Computer Science and Electrical Engineering, University of Missouri Kansas City, Kansas City, MO 64110, USA
Abstract-Solar cells can be a potential energy source in the
future generations replacing fossil based energy sources.But, due
to the higher cost & low conversion efficiencies they have not been
able to replace them as a potential energy source. Graphene or
graphene based materials have some exceptional properties which
make them a promising solution to these problems. The unique
properties of graphene make it promising for different applications
in solar cells. This paper analyzes some of these properties of
graphene & investigates whether graphene or graphene based
materials can be a potential replacement for conventional materials
used in solar cells especially stressing on multijunction solar cells
as these solar cells have the highest reported efficiencies. A few
designs of solar cells utilizing graphene has been analyzed in this
paper & their potential as a replacement of conventional solar cells
has been discussed giving an idea whether graphene based solar
cell designs are feasible or not.

bandgap, efficiency, cost, electrodes, multijunction solar


Today the most serious problems that the whole world is

looking into are Energy Crisis & Global Warming. The
source of both these problems originates from fossil fuels.
Fossil fuels are fuels formed by decomposition of dead
organisms like coal, petroleum or natural gas. These fuels
have high energy density & right after mankind found these
as a potential source of energy they have almost
unanimously supplied the whole worlds energy needs for
the last two centuries. But, as the worlds population kept on
growing exponentially the need for energy also started to
increase exponentially. The supply for this increased energy
demand came from fossil fuels. But, this overutilization of
fossil fuels gave rise to the two afore-mentioned problems.
The harmful gases released into the atmosphere due to the
burning of the fossil fuels polluted the atmosphere for
decades which gave rise to Greenhouse effect &
subsequently Global Warming .Hence, for some time now
there is ongoing search for cleaner sources of energy. Also,
due to the over-utilisation of the fossil fuels even the huge
deposits of oil in Middle-East are being depleted to its limit.
According to an article in the Institution of Mechanical
Engineers Website by 2040, the production levels will be
20% of what we consume today. So, the find for alternative
sources of energy which would replace fossil fuels as the
potential source of energy for the huge energy demands
throughout the world is most talked about topic throughout
the world. There have been different suggestions as to what
can replace fossil fuels namely Nuclear Energy, Solar
Energy etc.

The most promising solution to both the afore-mentioned

problems is Solar Energy. It is the cleanest & the most
abundant source of energy that is available on the earths
surface. The sun showers the earth with enough energy per
hour to equal the earths annual energy consumption per
year. So, even if some part of this energy is utilized to
supply the earths energy demands, it will be a potential
alternative for fossil fuels. It is a renewable source of
energy, hence there are no chances of depletion of this
source of energy & it is also readily available. Most of the
renewable sources of energy trace their origin to the Sun
like Solar or Photo voltaic Cells, Wind Energy, Bio fuels
etc. Out of all these energy sources photovoltaic cells or
solar cells is the most attractive source of energy as it is the
cleanest form of energy, it directly converts sunlight to
electricity, it is also a sustainable source of energy.A Solar
Cell is basically a p-n junction diode made up of p & n type
semiconductors. Semiconductors are materials which has
conductivity between metals & insulators. Its conductivity
can be varied which makes it popular for electronic device
applications like transistors, solar cells, light emitting diodes
etc. The most popularly used semiconductor for solar cells
till now is Silicon. This is because it is the most abundantly
available semiconductor material for Microelectronic
applications & also because of its relatively lower cost.
However, the problem with Silicon Solar cell technology is
that even after decades of use it has still not been a popular
source of energy for the worlds electricity demand as till
now only efficiencies of around 20-25% has been achieved
for single junction Silicon solar cells which is quite a low
value is not feasible enough mass electricity production. So,
efforts have been made to develop solar cells with better
efficiencies. A solution is using multijuction solar cells
instead of single junctions. Although they have been able to
achieve more efficiency there is a significant drawback to
this solution too as the cost of fabrication increases
significantly in this case. Hence,there has been an ongoing
search for newer materials to satisfy both the requirements
of cost & efficiency. Recently it has been proposed that
graphene or graphene based materials can be a potential
solution to the current drawbacks experienced by solar cells.
This paper analyzes different solar cell designs utilizing
Graphene & examines whether it can be potential
replacement to current Silicon based solar technology in
future. The rest of the paper is organized as follows. Section
II provides a background on existing solar cell technology.
Section III highlights the exceptional properties of graphene
which can be utilized in solar cells. Section IV gives
examples of some designs which utilize graphene for
different applications in a solar cell. Section V analyzes the
pros & cons of these designs & investigates whether these
designs can be potential replacements of conventional solar

cells. Section VI discusses technological & implementation

challenges of one of the mentioned designs. Finally Section
VII concludes the paper.




The use of Solar/Photovoltaic cell to convert sunlight to

electricity has been in practice for over a century now.
Photovoltaic effect was first observed by French physicist
Edmond Becquerel in 1839 when he discovered that when
two brass plates were exposed to light, after immersing in a
liquid they produced current. In 1883 Charles Fritts first
developed a Selenium based solar cell with 1% efficiency.In
1954, Bell Labs in USA invented the first Silicon based
solar cells with 6% efficiency. Till now, it is the most
popular material used to fabricate Solar Cells.In 1980-81
Multijunction Solar Cells first came into use. [ 1]
Although, solar energy is very attractive as it is abundant
throughout the world, the use of solar cells has not been that
widespread. There are mainly three reasons for this:

1) Solar energy is not predictable as Sunlight is not

predictable throughout the day.
2) The installation of solar or PV modules is very
3) Till now only around 30% efficiency has been
achieved by solar cells
A Solar Cell is basically a p-n junction diode made up of p
& n type semiconductors. Semiconductors are materials
which has conductivity between metals & insulators. Its
conductivity can be varied which makes it popular for
electronic device applications like transistors, solar cells,
light emitting diodes etc.
Semi conductors can be compounds or elements. Generally,
element semiconductors are the elements which contain 4
valence electrons in their outermost shell. These 4 valence
electrons are covalently bonded with the neighbouring
valence electrons of the neighbouring atoms. They behave
as conductors at high temperature & insulators at low
Semiconductors contain conduction & valence bands. When
two atoms are brought together their atomic orbital overlap
to form a molecular orbital. The energy of the molecular
orbital is different from the energy of the atomic orbitals
because of their interaction. According to Paulis exclusion
principle no two interacting electrons can occupy the same
energy level. When a large number of atoms are brought
together the atomic orbitals split into different energy levels
very close in energy which are together called bands of

allowed states or levels. The highest occupied band in

energy by electrons is called the Valence band & the lowest
unoccupied band by electrons is called Conduction band.
Most common semiconductor materials are Silicon &
Germanium. Semiconductors can be compounds too. They
offer better performance & design flexibility than elemental
semiconductors. Some compound semiconductors are
GaAs, CdTe. The conductivity of the semiconductor is
varied by introducing an impurity or by doping. This is
generally done by introducing a pentavalent atom like
Nitrogen, Phosphorus etc in the semiconductor crystal
structure for n-type doping & a trivalent atom for p-type
doping like Boron, Aluminium etc.
When a semiconductor is doped by n-type impurities there
is an extra electron which can move about freely in the
semiconductor crystal & results in conductivity. When the
semiconductor is doped by p-type impurities the
semiconductor acquires an absence of electron called hole
which causes the semiconductor to carry positive charge.
Doping the semiconductor with p-type impurity results into
a new empty level between the valence & the conduction
band while doping with n-type impurity results into a filled
level between the valence & conduction band.
A solar cell is generally made by bringing together a p-type
& an n-type semiconductor together to form a p-n junction
diode..It is fabricated by bringing together two materials
with different electrical properties like band gap & doping
density into contact in order to form built-in electric field &
light absorption.P-n junctions can be Homojuction or
Heterojuction depending on similar or different band gaps
respectively. Generally a p-n Heterojuction i.e. two
semiconductor materials with different band gaps are
utilised in solar cells.
The basic principle of a solar cell is photons in electrons
out. Electromagnetic waves or light waves are absorbed by
the solar cells which excites the electrons in the valence
band to the conduction band leaving a hole in the valence
band & which in turn results in charge flow. This charge is
collected at the two contacts & electricity is generated. This
is generally how conventional solar cell works. However,
over the years different types of solar cells have been
developed namely Multijunction solar cells, organic solar
cells, organic-inorganic hybrid solar cells, Dye sensitized
solar cells etc.[ 1]
A. Single Junction Solar Cells
In a single junction solar cell the top cover layer is made of
glass or transparent plastic. This layer allows sunlight to
enter the solar cell, protects the cell & is enclosed by a metal
frame for support
The Anti-reflective coating as the name suggests prevents
sunlight from being reflected back. To generate maximum
current as much sunlight as possible needs to be absorbed.
The antireflective coating also helps in absorption when the
solar cell is not aligned to receive maximum sunlight. It is
generally provided by two methods. One is by covering the
solar cell by a layer of Silicon Monoxide while the other is

roughing up the surface in the form of cones & pyramids

which reflect the sunlight back into the cell core.
The contact grid is made of conductive metals. It collects
the generated electrons & sends them to an electronic device
in the form of voltage. The surface area of the contact grid is
made large enough to collect as many electrons as possible
without blocking the sunlight absorbing area of the core.
The cell core is made of n-doped semiconductor which
produces electrons that combine with the holes generated in
the p-doped semiconductor region. They are separated by a
p-n junction which is the absorption region of the core&
also where the electrons from the n region meet with the
holes from the p-region. This region is also called the
depletion region where a built in electric field is created. In
this region the photovoltaic effect takes place & electricity
is generated which flows through the n-type layer & is
collected at the contact grid & is eventually transferred to a
The back contact layer is metallic & acts as a conductor. It
also provides rigidity to the solar cell.[2]
To increase current, maximum number of photons from the
whole spectrum must be captured. So, a small bandgap can
be selected such that photons with lower radiation energies
can excite electrons into conduction band. But, this results
in lower photovoltage. Also, photons with higher energies
loose most of their enrgies as heat called thermalization
loss. Again, if a higher bandgap is chosen photons with
energy lower than the bandgap is not absorbed resulting
lower photocurrent decreasing the output current of the
device. In conventional single junction solar cells these two
issues are resolved by choosing optimal bandgap in the
middle of the energy spectrum.[ 3] However, this leaves a
significant portion of the solar spectrum unutilized which
limits the efficiency of the single junction solar cells to 2025%. To utilize more of the solar spectrum the next breed of
solar cells can be utilized.

B. Multijunction Solar Cells

To increase the efficiencies of the conventional solar cells
Tandem or Multijunction solar cells have been started to be
developed. The basic idea of the Multijunction solar cells is
that multiple sub cells composed of materials having
different band gaps are stacked on top of one another
connected together by heavily doped tunnel junctions. As a
result, a larger portion of the solar spectrum is being
absorbed & utilised to generate electricity. This increases
the efficiency of the solar cells.
In multijunction solar cells a combination of semiconductor
materials are utilized to efficiently capture larger range of
photon energies. In these photovoltage is neither sacrificed
nor losses created as in single-junction cells.
above a triple junction solar cell is made of three sub cells
with the topmost sub cell having the highest band gap and
the next one having lower than that & so on. This is
because, the topmost sub cell receives sunlight of highest
concentration & as light travels downwards its concentration

decreases & the band gaps too subsequently decrease. In

this way, a larger portion of the available spectrum is
utilised which in turn increases the efficiency of the solar
cell assembly as the loss in single junction solar cells due to
the non-utilization of the photons with energy less & more
than the band gap of the single material is reduced.
Theoretically, infinite multiple junctions are possible.
However, mostly triple junctions have been realized so far
for practical applications.
A triple junction solar cell consists of a stack of three single
junction solar cells which are connected together by heavily
doped tunnel junctions. Similar, to a single junction solar
cell multi junction solar cells contain a layer of anti
reflective coating on top followed by the top sub cell with
highest band gap & so on. Each sub cell is connected to
each other through heavily doped p-n junction diodes called
tunnel junctions. They function as an ohmic contact between
the sub cells through which electrons as well as photons can
pass through. Metallic contacts or electrodes collect the
electrons generated & transfer the voltage to the electronic
device connected.[4]
Although, the multi junction solar cells are theoretically
better choices to be used for power generation. But,there is a
big problem with multi junction solar cell, which is its
fabrication cost. Also, the efficiency achieved with tandem
solar cells is only around 30% & to increase the efficiency
the costs increase a lot. Also, multiple junction solar cells
are not very flexible. Hence, the implementation of multiple
junction solar cells for electricity generation has not become
very popular.
However, since Multijunction solar cells can provide better
efficiency than single junction solar cells. Therefore,
research is being conducted on how to improve the
efficiency of the solar cells as well as lower the cost. One
solution that is proposed is using Graphene as a potential
material for making the sub cells, electrodes etc.

Fig. 2: Schematic of Multijunction Solar Cell[4]

C. Organic Solar Cells

The use of solar cells for electricity generation depends on
the cost of the devices & of the obtained energy. Over the
last few decades research on organic semiconducting
materials have increased significantly because these
materials can be produced cheaply & quickly, they have
high flexibility & their properties are easily tunable. Initially
in this field small organic molecules were applied but after
the development of semiconducting polymers these
materials were incorporated into organic solar cells resulting
in huge improvement within the past few years.
Semiconducting organic materials transport electric current
& absorb light in UV part of the solar spectrum due to sp2
hybridization of carbon atoms.
They differ from inorganic solid state semiconductors in
their charge-carrier mobility which is poorer than the
inorganic materials. But, these materials have stronger
absorption coefficients. They generally have an optical
bandgap of 2 eV which is much higher than that of Silicon
thus limiting the solar spectrum harvesting capability to a
large extent. But, still due to the chemically flexible nature
as well as low cost drives research in this field. In recent
years even Multijunction organic solar cells have been
developed. [5]
D .Dye Sensitized Solar Cell
This is another type of organic solar cell but whose design is
somewhat different from the conventional solar cells. It
generally consists of a transparent cathode, a highly porous
semiconductor layer with a soaked layer of dye, an
electrolyte solaution containing redox pairs & a counter
electrode. The basic working principle of these solar cells is,
a dye molecule harvests sunlight & is excited so that it
injects electron directly in the conduction band of TiO2
which is the the porous semiconductor. The injected
electron then moves to the transparent anode & through the
external circuit to the cathode. The dye molecule takes one
electron from iodine in the electrolyte by oxidizing it to
triiodide. The triiodide recovers its missing electron from
external diffusing circuit by diffusing to the counter
The highest efficiency reported by such a solar cell is
around 12.3% which is much lower than the silicon solar
cells but due to their low cost & easy fabrication these are a
popular subject of research.[6]
There are more types of solar cells but in this we will focus
on generally multijunction solar cells they have the highest
reported efficiencies.
As we have discussed earlier the Multijunction solar cells
can be simply stated as stacks of single junction solar cells.
Parameters that affect the performance of a solar cell which
will be discussed in this paper are bandgap, conductivity of
electrodes & transparency of the electrodes. These three are
very important factors which influence the performance of
solar cells.[7]

Bandgaps of different materials play a vital role in the

performance of solar cells. As, mentioned earlier bandgap is
the seperation in conduction band & the valence band in
semiconductor materials & the difference between the
lowest energy level & the highest energy level is called the
bandgap energy. When, incoming photon with the same
energy as the bandgap of the material is absorbed an
electron from the valence band is raised to the conduction
band. However, photons with lower energy than the
bandgap do not excite electrons to the conduction band &
are thus lost whereas the photons with higher energy than
the bandgap loose most of their energy as heat & a large
portion of the photon energy remains unutilized. That is
why a potential solution is using multijunction solar cells
which would utilize a larger portion of the solar spectrum
but fabrication of these devices is very costly which is a
serious disadvantage for these to be used for commercial
applications. Hence, Multijunction solar cells with lower
fabrication cost are a goal for all solar cell researchers. The
most commonly used semiconductors for solar cell
applications are Silicon, Germanium & Gallium Arsenide.
Their bandgaps are shown below.
Table 1:Comparison of the





The conductivity of the electrodes is also an important

factor in solar cells. In conventional solar cells generally
metal electrodes are used as interconnects which carry the
current generated by the solar cell to the electronic device. If
the conductivity of the electrode is high enough then almost
all the electrons generated by the solar cell is transferred to
the connected electronic device. However, the conventional
metal electrodes like Cu or Al have moderate conductivity
& therefore this act as a limitation to higher efficiency.
Another disadvantage of the conventional metal electrodes
is that they are not transparent. As a result, due to their
shadows the light absorption area of the solar cells is
significantly reduced. Hence, lesser amount of light enters
into the solar cell resulting in lower number of photons
which ultimately results into lesser number of electrons.
Thus, ideally transparent electrodes are an obvious solution
to this problem.
All, the above problems can be solved by using Graphene or
Graphene based materials due to its exceptional properties.
The next section highlights some of these properties & gives
an idea why graphene can be a potential material to be
utilized in solar cells.


Graphene is different from most 3-d materials. Intrinsic

Graphene is known to be a zero-gap semiconductor or a

semi-metal. It has very high electron mobility almost 2

times than that of Si thereby making it highly conducting.
Also, since it has a direct band gap it can absorb more
photons in a much thinner region as compared to indirect
band gap semiconductors like Si. Graphene even has
exceptional optical properties & hence can be utilised as
transparent electrodes & interconnects between two sub
cells in tandem solar cells. Graphene is a carbon sheet one
atom thick consisting of condensed six member rings. The
carbon atoms in Graphene are sp2 bonded & form a
hexagonal 2D lattice. In ideal Graphene a very high carrier
mobility on the order of 105 cm2/(V s) at room temperature.
This exceeds the carrier mobility of Silicon by one or two
orders suggesting that Graphene can be used as a
replacement for Silicon in nanoelectronics. Besides its
exceptional electrical properties Graphene has very high
mechanical strength. Graphene also has a tunable bandgap.
3D Graphene is known as Graphite. It is the thinnest
material with highest strength; it is also highly transparent
& highly conducting. This makes Graphene an attractive
option to make transparent electrodes in solar cells. [9]


Fig.3: Structure of graphene: (a) top view, (b) side view of the
_electron system. Also shown are the structure of a graphite
crystal & a fullerene molecule[9]


A. Graphene as a substrate for subcells in a multijunction
solar cell
In this design a graphene Multijunction solar cell is
fabricated by depositing a monoatomic graphene layer of p
or n doped graphene on a thin film of metal. This is done by
lacing a transparent conductive flexible substrate containing
a thin film of transparent conductive oxide on the surface of
the monoatomic graphene layer. The monoatomic graphene
layer is then oxidized by removing the thin metal film
opening up its band gap to provide a graphene-flexible
substrate assembly. Then more graphene-flexible substrate
assemblies are combined having opposite doping but similar
band gap to make a p-n doped graphene assembly. Then, the
multiple p-n doped assemblies are stacked on top one

another with different band gaps to make multiple junction

solar cell. Each sub cell is separated from one another by a
transparent conductive substrate. At the top of the total solar
cell there is metal contact &anti reflectivecoating. At the
bottom there is another metal contact. The top & bottom
metal contacts act as electrodes to collect the charge that is
generated.The graphene layer is fabricated by chemical
vapour deposition technique on a thin film of metal. During
fabrication, the graphene layer is doped by introducing
dopant containing gas. After fabrication, the graphene layer
is transferred from its metal substrate to a transparent
conductive substrate using a transfer tape or polymeric
sacrificial layers. The band gap opening is done by exposing
it to dry oxidation or reduction treatment. The graphene
layer can be doped by introducing oxygen dopants by
oxidation. This oxidation method also introduces an energy
gap opening in graphene. The opening of the gap can be
correlated to the surface concentration of the oxygen
dopants, as the energy gap increases with the increase in
dopant concentration. This way each sub cell is fabricated &
stacked together to make a Multijunction graphene based
solar cell.[10]
B. Graphene based electrodes
Graphene is used to make flexible, transparent, conductive
electrodes by taking the advantage its extremely high optical
transparency & electrical conductivity. Graphene is a single
layer of carbon atoms arranged in a periodic hexagonal
lattice. Since, Graphene has a higher transmission
coefficient than other transparent oxides used like ITO
(Indium Tin Oxide) in the high-wavelength region of the
incident photons it is a more attractive option to be used for
fabrication of transparent electrodes. Also, since graphene is
transparent, it reduces the losses due to shadow of the grid
electrodes. Chemical doping of Carbon nanotubes (CNTs)
or graphene results in remarkable increase in its
conductivity, promoting charge transport. Both Single
walled Carbon Nanotubes (SWCNT) & Multi walled
Carbon Nanotubes (MWCNT) are being seen as potential
components to fabricate the electrodes of the solar cells &
research is being conducted on how to implement them to
better improve the efficiency of the solar cells. A solar cell
with CNT based electrodes is discussed below

Fig.4: DWNT-Si heterojunctions and multifunctionalities of the

DWNTs. a) Illustration of coating a patterned Si/SiO2 substrate (Si
window: 7mm _7mm) with a DWNT film in cell fabrication. The
DWNT film serves as a transparent electrode for light illumination
(AM 1.5) and charge collection. b) Band scheme diagram of the
DWNT-Si heterojunction. c) Illustration of the charge separation
occurred at the interface between a DWNT and the Si substrate
(cross-section view). d) Illustration of charge transport through a
percolated DWNT network.[11]

In this design the heterojunction solar cells is made up of an

n-type monocrystalline silicon wafer coated by doublewalled carbon nanotubes(DWNTs) through a solution
transfer process. Here, DWNT films take part in three key
processes for energy conversion.
Firstly, the DWNTs form junction interface with Si which
accounts for charge separation. The band diagram in the
above figure shows a large built in voltage which results in a
built in electric field in which electrons are transported to
the n-type Si region whereas the holes are transported
through DWNTs.
Secondly, DWNTs form a network which favors faster hole
transport. In this design chemical vapor deposition
technique is used to grow DWNT films which are highly
interconnected providing percolation paths for holes.
Lastly, the DWNT films also serve as transparent electrodes
for light illumination & charge collection. The CNTs have
higher transparency & conductivity which makes it a viable
replacement for ITO.[11]

C. Graphene as an Antireflection coating

Graphene with its unique electronic, electrical, mechanical
& optical properties has recently been seen as an attractive
option to be used for anti-reflection coating. Few-layer
graphene on polished & textured silicon is being proposed
to be used as antireflection coating in solar cell structures.
An anti reflection coating is an important part of a solar cell.
For photovoltaic applications the reflectance is minimized
for a wavelength of 0.6 micro meter which is close to the
maximum power point of the solar spectrum. By increasing
the number of layers of different index & thickness, the
reflectance can be decreased over a wider spectral range.
In this design graphene films are grown on 25 micro meter
thick Cu foil with Methane, hydrogen & Arsenic as
precursor forming gases. Before deposition of the graphene
layer the Cu foil was cleaned in acetic acid followed by deionized water & isopropyl alcohol to remove the copper
oxide present at the surface. The copper foil substrate is kept
at a temperature of about 750 C &plasma is created by
using Hydrogen & Arsenic at a gas pressure of 30 Torr with
a microwave power of 1.5 kW. The Cu foil is then annealed
for 20 min & then methane is introduced & a graphene layer
is deposited for 5 min. The substrate is allowed to cool
down naturally. To study the deposition & optical properties
of graphene deposition on Si, graphene from Cu foil is
transferred on a Si substrate.
The presence of Silicon di oxide & a graphene layer resulted
in a significant decrease in the reflectance values throughout
the UV-visible spectrum. In this design, Silicon di oxide
over layer is necessary for realization of the anti-reflection
properties of graphene. When compared to the
Si3N4/textured silicon anti reflection coating it shows that
graphene over layers result in a larger decrease in
reflectance values generally. The thickness of Silicon di
oxide & the number of graphene layers can be varied for
achieving low reflectance values in a desired wavelength
range. To exploit the anti reflection properties of graphene it
is desirable to deposit graphene onto large areas.[12]
D. SWCNT based photoactive device
A p-n junction carbon nanotube (CNT) due to its defect free
diode structure shows ideal diode behavior. In this design
SWCNTs were nanowelded across two asymmetric metal
electrodes with high & low work functions which
established a strong built in electric field along the length of
the tubes. The SWCNTs are vertically aligned which
enhances the photoabsorption properties of the device as
photons not absorbed by a tube is likely to be reflected or
transmitted towards another tube having a different
bandgap. Also, the photoabsorption is maximized when
electric field of incident light is parallel polarized to the tube
axis. The tubes are arranged such that higher band gap tubes
absorb the shorter wavelength photons.[13]

plastic or polymers so that difficulties in handling &

installation are also reduced.
However, these solar cells are utilizing conventional metal
electrodes as their conducting electrodes which limit their
efficiency a bit. Also, it does reduce the fabrication cost but
it does not achieve efficiency similar to conventional
Multijunction cells.
These solar cells might achieve higher efficiencies if they
use transparent better conducting graphene electrodes instead
of the conventional metal electrodes. But, the development
of these solar cells is still at a nascent stage hence,
implementation of these solar cells commercially is still faroff.
B. Graphene as electrodes
Fig.5: PV device with vertically aligned SWCNTs as photoactive
material connected between two metal electrodes[13]
E. Graphene Inorganic quantum dot solar cells
Inorganic quantum dot solar cells are promising as photo
voltaic technology as they have the potential to exceed the
Shockley-Queisser limit on single-junction energy
extraction from the solar spectrum, their size-tuneable
photon absorption & their efficient generation of multiple
electron-hole pairs. In the quantum dot solar cells singlewalled carbon nanotubes, stacked SWNTs with suitable
energy levels, & 1-D nano structures are used as electron
acceptors in QD solar cells to improve the electron-hole
separation in theses solar cells. Due to the high specific
surface area, high mobility & tuneable band gap of
graphene, these devices show better efficiency of around
16% & photo response.[6]
A. Graphene as a substrate in the sub cells
Semi conducting graphene has a direct band gap that
enables it to absorb more photons in a much thinner region
compared to conventional Silicon semiconductors. The
electron & holes carrier mobility of graphene is about two
orders more than that of Silicon & other III-V
semiconductor materials. The internal resistance of
graphene-based solar cell is much less than common III-V
semiconductor-based solar cell. Since, carbon is abundant &
the cost to fabricate graphene is comparable to the
fabrication cost of silicon & thus lesser than the fabrication
cost of conventional Multijunction solar cells. The
production cost is also reduced by decrease in the thickness
of the each cell as graphene itself is very thin. Such thin film
solar cells will cost much less than the traditional solar cells
as lesser semiconductor materials would be used & also
lesser rare-earth element dopants are utilized. These solar
cells can be deposited on cheap flexible substrates like

The manufacturing process of these solar cells is simple &

scalable. Also, it utilizes the distinct advantageous properties
of both the semiconducting substrate & the nanotubes to
construct efficient solar cells. It, offers lower cost approaches
to fabricate efficient solar cells.hey also exhibit a higher
current density. These solar cells offer higher flexibility in
choice of materials with suitable bandgaps covering wider
range of solar spectrum. Also, these solar cells are
environmentally very stable.
However, these solar cells are mainly thin-film solar cells
with much lower efficiencies than the desired range. Hence
use of Multijunction thin film solar cells would increase their
efficiencies to a large extent as in design A.
C. Graphene as Antireflective coating
Anti reflection coatings are very important in solar cell
designs as these layers prevent incoming light from being
reflected back into the atmosphere. Using layers of graphene
as anti reflective coating produces comparable value with
that of conventional anti reflection coatings used in solar
cells like Silicon Nitride. The monolayer character of
graphene makes it an ideal surface layer for planar, textured
or corrugated surface. The presence of SiO2 & a graphene
layer on the substrates results in significant reduction in
reflectance values throughout the UV-visible spectral range.
The inert nature of graphene gives an additional advantage
in antireflection applications.
But, to exploit these anti-reflection properties deposition of
graphene onto large areas is important which might be
complex. Also, SiO2 overlayer is required to utilize the antireflection properties of graphene & their thickness needs to
be varied to achieve low reflectance which is quite a
difficult task & it also increases the overall thickness of the
solar cell thereby which might make it difficult to
implement in PV applications as the cost of fabrication will
also increase.
D. SWCNT based photoactive device

This design seems attractive as the higher carrier mobility,

lower scattering & recombination losses of CNTs make it
attractive as a photoactive device. Also, depending on their
geometrical structure their band gaps are tunable so they can
absorb photons of variable wavelengths thereby enhancing
the device efficiency.
However, these solar cells would have certain limitations.
The accurate measuring & probing of this design is very
complex. This solar cell is very effective only in the IR
region so these do not cover as much of the spectrum as
conventional Multijunction solar cells. Also, the installation
these devices in solar panels would be complex.
E. Graphene Inorganic quantum dot solar cells
These solar cells can exceed the Shockley-Queisser limit on
single junction energy extraction & due to the use of
graphene they exhibit higher efficiencies than conventional
quantum dot solar cells. But, even this design is at a very
nascent stage & development of QD solar cells might be
possible but these solar cells cannot be utilized for mass
energy production.

The analysis of different designs of solar cells utilizing
graphene has been carried out in the paper & it is found out
that graphene or graphene based materials can have many
applications in a solar cell. The implementation challenges
of one of the designs are discussed. The efficiencies
achieved from many of these solar cells are still not
comparable to the conventional solar cells but as these solar
cells provide a significant reduction in fabrication cost these
solar cells can be developed more to replace conventional
solar cells which would provide comparable efficiencies. A
combination of all the applications of graphene in a solar
cell might provide a better solution to this problem & offer
better efficiencies.
Currently, research is going on many other areas on utilizing
graphene in solar cells to increase the efficiency & lower the
costs of the solar cells so that they can be a potential source
of energy in future & can replace fossil fuels in different
applications. This would ensure a better future for the
generations to come.



[ 1]Jenny Nelson, The Physics of Solar Cells,1st Edition,Imperial

College Press,UK, 2003, pp.2-8

This design looks attractive than conventional single
junction solar cells as due to the tunable band gap of
SWCNTs they can cover a wider region of the solar
spectrum. Also, due to their exceptional properties of
superior carrier mobility, direct band gap characteristics &
low scattering & recombination losses theoretically it looks
a viable photovoltaic device to generate electricity but, the
implementation of this device is quite difficult.
For, these devices to function properly the diameter &
chirality of SWCNTs need to be carefully maintained but till
now, the growth of SWCNTs with accurate diameter &
chirality control has been difficult. Also, since it is different
from conventional solar cells conventional simulation
techniques cannot be utilized for modeling. Also, in this
design it is necessary to ensure sufficient separation &
adequate alignment amongst the SWCNTs but perfect
alignment of such nano structures is difficult to achieve.
Since, accurate measurements & probing is very complex
only computational simulations are performed to obtain the
device specifications required for the design.
Also, multi junction designs of these photoactive devices are
difficult to realize. This design is still theoretical so real life
implementation of this device for photon conversion is still
not tested experimentally. Even if its implemented
experimentally construction of large solar grids with
multiple panels of photoactive device like this might be
difficult to implement.

Physics:Amorphous Semiconductors: Amorphous Silicon Solar
Cells(1985), Springer Berlin / Heidelberg.
[ 3]Nrel, The Basic Physics & Design of III-V Multijunction Solar
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Kinsey et al., 40% efficient metamorphic GaInP/GaInAs/Ge
multijunction solar cells, Appl. Phys. Lett. 90, pp.2-4, 4 May 2007
[5] Harald Hoppe and Niyazi Serdar Sariciftci, Organic solar cells:
An overview, J. Mater. Res., Vol. 19, No. 7,pp. 2-6, Jul 2004
[6] Jun Liu , Yuhua Xue , Mei Zhang , and Liming Dai, Graphenebased materials for energy applications, MRS BULLETIN, Vol.
37, pp. 2-3 , December 2012
[7] John R.Hauser,Member,IEEE and Peter M.Dunbar,
Performance Limitations of Silicon Solar Cells, lEEE
NO. 4, pp. 1-3 APRIL 1977
[8] Streetman, Ben G.; Sanjay Banerjee (2000). Solid State
electronic Devices (5th ed.).New Jersey: Prentice Hall.
p. 524. ISBN 0-13-025538-6
[9] S. V. Tkachev, E. Yu. Buslaeva, and S. P. Gubin, Graphene: A
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No. 1, pp. 514, 2011
[10] Adrianus I.Aria, Morteza Gharib, Graphene-Based Multijunction flexible solar cell, United States Patent Apllication
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[11] Yi Jia, Jinquan Wei, Kunlin Wang, Anyuan Cao,* Qinke Shu,
Xuchun Gui, et al, NanotubeSilicon Heterojunction Solar Cells, ,
Advanced Materials, pp.2-5, 2008
[12] Rakesh Kumar, A K Sharma, Mehar Bhatnagar, B R Mehta
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planar and textured silicon surfaces, Nanotechnology 24, pp.18,March 2013
[13] K. El Shabrawy, K. Maharatna, B. M. Al-Hashimi, Exploiting
SWCNT Structural Variability Towards the Development of a
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