Solar material can “self-heal” imperfections, new research suggests

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A material that can be used in technologies such as solar power has been found to self-heal, according to a new study by the University of York.

The substance, called antimony selenide (Sb2Se3), is a solar absorber material that can be used for turning light energy into electricity.

Researchers from the University’s Department of Physics raise the possibility of engineering high-performance self-healing materials, which could ‘reduce costs and improve scalability.’

Professor Keith McKenna, from the Department of Physics, commented on the findings: “The process by which this semi-conducting material self-heals is rather like how a salamander is able to re-grow limbs when one is severed.

“Antimony selenide repairs broken bonds created when it is cleaved by forming new ones.

“This ability is as unusual in the materials world as it is in the animal kingdom and has important implications for applications of these materials in optoelectronics and photochemistry.”

The new paper featuring the research, titled ‘Self-healing of broken bonds and deep gap states in Sb2Se3 and Sb2S3’, discusses how broken bonds in many other semiconducting materials usually results in poor performance.

Researchers cite as an example an another semiconductor called CdTe, which has to be chemically treated to fix the problem.

Professor McKenna added: “We discovered that antimony selenide and the closely related material, antimony sulphide, are able to readily heal broken bonds at surfaces through structural reconstructions, thereby eliminating the problematic electronic states.

“Covalently-bonded semiconductors like antimony selenide find widespread applications in electronics, photochemistry, photovoltaics and optoelectronics for example solar panels and component for lighting and displays.

The paper, Self-healing of broken bonds and deep gap states in Sb2Se3 and Sb2S3 is published in Advanced Electronic Materials.

This research was first reported by the University of York.