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Why does increased surface area of a semi-conductor lead to better properties?

  1. Mar 24, 2012 #1
    I'm researching solar cells, some of which use TiO2 as a semiconducting film. Modern solar cells use TiO2 nanoparticles to increase the surface area of the film. Somehow this is advantageous to the solar cell.

    From my limited understanding of semiconductors, I know that to get a current flowing in a solar cell, an electron has to be excited from the valence band to the conduction band. The simple concept of a metallic conductor is of a "sea" of electrons. Wouldn't having nanoparticles adversely effect the flow of electrons between TiO2 molecules? Because now they are more separate crystals instead of being one continuous crystal lattice.

    I'm not sure how surface area helps semiconductors. Does it allow more electron excitation? Does more light get absorbed because the material has higher surface area? This would only make sense to me if it was true that light absorption could only take place at the edges of a crystal lattice. Is that true?

    Is there better electron transfer to other films in the solar cell? If electron injection from the semiconductor to the dye is dependent on surface area, I can can see this as being the reason why it would help to have large surface area.

    Thanks.
     
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2012
  2. jcsd
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