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Optical properties of ZnFe2O4 nanoparticles and Fe-decorated inversion domain boundaries in ZnO


The maximum efficiency of solar cells utilizing a single layer for photovoltaic conversion is given by the single junction Shockley–Queisser limit. In tandem solar cells, a stack of materials with different band gaps contribute to the conversion, enabling tandem cells to exceed the single junction Shockley–Queisser limit. An intriguing variant of this approach is to embed semiconducting nanoparticles in a transparent conducting oxide (TCO) solar cell front contact. This alternative route would enhance the functionality of the TCO layer, allowing it to participate directly in photovoltaic conversion via photon absorption and charge carrier generation in the nanoparticles. Here, we demonstrate the functionalization of ZnO through incorporation of either ZnFe2O4 spinel nanoparticles (NPs) or inversion domain boundaries (IDBs) decorated by Fe. Diffuse reflectance spectroscopy and electron energy loss spectroscopy show that samples containing spinel particles and samples containing IDBs decorated by Fe both display enhanced absorption in the visible range at around 2.0 and 2.6 eV. This striking functional similarity was attributed to the local structural similarity around Fe-ions in spinel ZnFe2O4 and at Fe-decorated basal IDBs. Hence, functional properties of the ZnFe2O4 arise already for the two-dimensional basal IDBs, from which these planar defects behave like two-dimensional spinel-like inclusions in ZnO. Cathodoluminescence spectra reveal an increased luminescence around the band edge of spinel ZnFe2O4 when measuring on the spinel ZnFe2O4 NPs embedded in ZnO, whereas spectra from Fe-decorated IDBs could be deconvoluted into luminescence contributions from bulk ZnO and bulk ZnFe2O4.


Academic article


  • Research Council of Norway (RCN) / 197405
  • Research Council of Norway (RCN) / 295864
  • University of Oslo / petcat
  • Research Council of Norway (RCN) / 287729





  • University of Oslo
  • SINTEF Industry / Sustainable Energy Technology



Published in

Nanoscale Advances


Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC)






2102 - 2110

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