Staff directory

Mónica Lira Cantu

CSIC Tenured Scientist and Group Leader
Nanostructured Materials for Photovoltaic Energy



  • A Solar Transistor and Photoferroelectric Memory

    Pérez-Tomás A., Lima A., Billon Q., Shirley I., Catalan G., Lira-Cantú M. Advanced Functional Materials; 28 (17, 1707099) 2018. 10.1002/adfm.201707099.

    This study presents a new self-powered electronic transistor concept “the solar transistor.” The transistor effect is enabled by the functional integration of a ferroelectric-oxide thin film and an organic bulk heterojunction. The organic heterojunction efficiently harvests photon energy and splits photogenerated excitons into free electron and holes, and the ferroelectric film acts as a switchable electron transport layer with tuneable conduction band offsets that depend on its polarization state. This results in the device photoconductivity modulation. All this (i.e., carrier extraction and poling) is achieved with only two sandwiched electrodes and therefore, with the role of the gating electrode being taken by light. The two-terminal solar-powered phototransistor (or solaristor) thus has the added advantages of a compact photodiode architecture in addition to the nonvolatile functionality of a ferroelectric memory that is written by voltage and nondestructively read by light. © 2018 WILEY-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim

  • Reconsidering figures of merit for performance and stability of perovskite photovoltaics

    Khenkin M.V., Anoop K.M., Visoly-Fisher I., Galagan Y., Di Giacomo F., Patil B.R., Sherafatipour G., Turkovic V., Rubahn H.-G., Madsen M., Merckx T., Uytterhoeven G., Bastos J.P.A., Aernouts T., Brunetti F., Lira-Cantu M., Katz E.A. Energy and Environmental Science; 11 (4): 739 - 743. 2018. 10.1039/c7ee02956j.

    The development of hybrid organic-inorganic halide perovskite solar cells (PSCs) that combine high performance and operational stability is vital for implementing this technology. Recently, reversible improvement and degradation of PSC efficiency have been reported under illumination-darkness cycling. Quantifying the performance and stability of cells exhibiting significant diurnal performance variations is challenging. We report the outdoor stability measurements of two types of devices showing either reversible photo-degradation or reversible efficiency improvement under sunlight. Instead of the initial (or stabilized) efficiency and T80 as the figures of merit for the performance and stability of such devices, we propose using the value of the energy output generated during the first day of exposure and the time needed to reach its 20% drop, respectively. The latter accounts for both the long-term irreversible degradation and the reversible diurnal efficiency variation and does not depend on the type of process prevailing in a given perovskite cell. © 2018 The Royal Society of Chemistry.


  • Effect of cs-incorporated NiOx on the performance of perovskite solar cells

    Kim H.-S., Seo J.-Y., Xie H., Lira-Cantu M., Zakeeruddin S.M., Gratzel M., Hagfeldt A. ACS Omega; 2 (12): 9074 - 9079. 2017. 10.1021/acsomega.7b01179.

    The effect of Cs-incorporated NiOx on perovskite solar cells with an inverted structure was investigated, where NiOx and PCBM were used as selective contacts for holes and electrons, respectively. It was found that the generation of an Ni phase in an NiOx layer was significantly suppressed by employing cesium. Furthermore, Cs-incorporated NiOx enabled holes to be efficiently separated at the interface, showing the improved photoluminescent quenching and thus generating higher short-circuit current. The effect of Cs incorporation was also prominent in the inhibition of recombination. The recombination resistance of Cs-incorporated NiOx was noticeably increased by more than three-fold near the maximum power point leading to a higher fill factor of 0.78 and consequently a higher power conversion efficiency of 17.2% for the device employing Cs-incorporated NiOx. © 2017 American Chemical Society

  • Incorporation of Counter Ions in Organic Molecules: New Strategy in Developing Dopant-Free Hole Transport Materials for Efficient Mixed-Ion Perovskite Solar Cells

    Zhang J., Xu B., Yang L., Mingorance A., Ruan C., Hua Y., Wang L., Vlachopoulos N., Lira-Cantú M., Boschloo G., Hagfeldt A., Sun L., Johansson E.M.J. Advanced Energy Materials; 7 (14) 2017. 10.1002/aenm.201602736. IF: 16.721

    Hole transport matertial (HTM) as charge selective layer in perovskite solar cells (PSCs) plays an important role in achieving high power conversion efficiency (PCE). It is known that the dopants and additives are necessary in the HTM in order to improve the hole conductivity of the HTM as well as to obtain high efficiency in PSCs, but the additives can potentially induce device instability and poor device reproducibility. In this work a new strategy to design dopant-free HTMs has been presented by modifying the HTM to include charged moieties which are accompanied with counter ions. The device based on this ionic HTM X44 dos not need any additional doping and the device shows an impressive PCE of 16.2%. Detailed characterization suggests that the incorporated counter ions in X44 can significantly affect the hole conductivity and the homogeneity of the formed HTM thin film. The superior photovoltaic performance for X44 is attributed to both efficient hole transport and effective interfacial hole transfer in the solar cell device. This work provides important insights as regards the future design of new and efficient dopant free HTMs for photovotaics or other optoelectronic applications. © 2017 WILEY-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim

  • Perovskite solar cells: Stability lies at interfaces

    Lira-Cantú M. Nature Energy; 2 (7, 17115) 2017. 10.1038/nenergy.2017.115. IF: 9.086

    [No abstract available]


  • Above-Bandgap Photovoltages in Antiferroelectrics

    Pérez-Tomás A., Lira-Cantú M., Catalan G. Advanced Materials; 28 (43): 9644 - 9647. 2016. 10.1002/adma.201603176. IF: 18.960

    The closed circuit photocurrent and open circuit photovoltage of antiferroelectric thin films were characterized both in their ground (antipolar) state and in their polarized state. A sharp transition happens from near zero to large photovoltages as the polarization is switched on, consistent with the activation of the bulk photovoltaic effect. The AFE layers have been grown by a solution processing method (sol?gel synthesis followed by spin coating deposition) onto fluorine-doped tin oxide (FTO), a transparent conducting oxide with low sheet resistance and a higher resilience to high-temperature processing than indium tin oxide and a standard for solar cells such as organometal trihalide perovskites. Light absorption confirmed that the PZO films are, as expected, wide-band gap semiconductors with a gap of 3.7.8 eV and thus highly absorbing in the near-ultraviolet range. On a virgin sample, there is no shortcircuit photocurrent, consistent with the antipolar nature of the ground state. As an external bias voltage is applied, the current remains negligible until suddenly, at the coercive voltage, a spike is observed, corresponding to the transient displacement current caused by the onset of polarization.

  • Comparative indoor and outdoor degradation of organic photovoltaic cells via inter-laboratory collaboration

    Owens C., Ferguson G.M., Hermenau M., Voroshazi E., Galagan Y., Zimmermann B., Rösch R., Angmo D., Teran-Escobar G., Uhrich C., Andriessen R., Hoppe H., Würfel U., Lira-Cantu M., Krebs F.C., Tanenbaum D.M. Polymers; 8 (1, 1) 2016. 10.3390/polym8010001. IF: 2.944

    We report on the degradation of organic photovoltaic (OPV) cells in both indoor and outdoor environments. Eight different research groups contributed state of the art OPV cells to be studied at Pomona College. Power conversion efficiency and fill factor were determined from IV curves collected at regular intervals over six to eight months. Similarly prepared devices were measured indoors, outdoors, and after dark storage. Device architectures are compared. Cells kept indoors performed better than outdoors due to the lack of temperature and humidity extremes. Encapsulated cells performed better due to the minimal oxidation. Some devices showed steady aging but many failed catastrophically due to corrosion of electrodes not active device layers. Degradation of cells kept in dark storage was minimal over periods up to one year. © 2015 by the authors.

  • EU COST Action MP1307 - Unravelling the degradation mechanisms of emerging solar cell technologies

    Aernouts T., Brunetti F., De La Fuente J., Espinosa N., Urbina A., Fonrodona M., Lira-Cantu M., Galagan Y., Hoppe H., Katz E., Ramos M., Riede M., Vandewal K., Veenstra S., Von Hauff E. Proceedings of the 18th Mediterranean Electrotechnical Conference: Intelligent and Efficient Technolo; ( 7495310) 2016. 10.1109/MELCON.2016.7495310.

    Organic and hybrid perovskite based solar cells have a huge potential to significantly contribute to a clean electricity supply of the future. However, so far they exhibit complex and hierarchical degradation paths and their understanding can only be acquired through the application of complementary chemical and physical characterization techniques. This limited device stability is the main hurdle for a successful and large scale market introduction of these emerging solar cell technologies. Our StableNextSol Action has created a highly interdisciplinary network of laboratories, as well as corresponding industry, overall more than 120 partners, with complementary analytical techniques for the study and understanding of the degradation mechanisms occurring in state-of-the-art devices. Our Action integrates and generates fundamental knowledge and expertise to foster disruptive innovations targeted to mitigate device failure and to propose and develop new concepts for more stable solar cells. Value is added to the entire value chain of photovoltaic research at European and international level, as well as variety decision makers in the public sector by supporting specialisation policy and standards still lacking in this research field. The outcome of the Action will contribute to resolve the global challenges facing the industry and this COST Action initiative has brought together all these expertises and resources to promote the cooperation between different sectors, academia, public authorities and industry. © 2016 IEEE.

  • Flexible ITO-free organic solar cells applying aqueous solution-processed V2O5 hole transport layer: An outdoor stability study

    Lima F.A.S., Beliatis M.J., Roth B., Andersen T.R., Bortoti A., Reyna Y., Castro E., Vasconcelos I.F., Gevorgyan S.A., Krebs F.C., Lira-Cantu M. APL Materials; 4 (2, 026104) 2016. 10.1063/1.4942638. IF: 4.323

    Solution processable semiconductor oxides have opened a new paradigm for the enhancement of the lifetime of thin film solar cells. Their fabrication by low-cost and environmentally friendly solution-processable methods makes them ideal barrier (hole and electron) transport layers. In this work, we fabricate flexible ITO-free organic solar cells (OPV) by printing methods applying an aqueous solution-processed V2O5 as the hole transport layer (HTL) and compared them to devices applying PEDOT:PSS. The transparent conducting electrode was PET/Ag/PEDOT/ZnO, and the OPV configuration was PET/Ag/PEDOT/ZnO/P3HT:PC60BM/HTL/Ag. Outdoor stability analyses carried out for more than 900 h revealed higher stability for devices fabricated with the aqueous solution-processed V2O5. © 2016 Author(s).

  • Performance and stability of mixed FAPbI3(0.85)MAPbBr3(0.15) halide perovskite solar cells under outdoor conditions and the effect of low light irradiation

    Reyna Y., Salado M., Kazim S., Pérez-Tomas A., Ahmad S., Lira-Cantu M. Nano Energy; 30: 570 - 579. 2016. 10.1016/j.nanoen.2016.10.053. IF: 11.553

    We demonstrate for the first time, the real lifetime response of mixed halide perovskite solar cells (PSCs) for >1000 h under outdoor conditions and the exceptional photoresponse observed at low-light intensities attributed to the ionic-electronic nature of the material. The investigated devices were fabricated by utilizing mixed perovskites containing formamidinium (FA) and methylammonium (MA) cations, in a one step solution-process method through a solvent engineering approach. The devices’ architecture is FTO/TiO2 (blocking layer) TiO2 (mesoporous)/FAPbI3(0.85)MAPbBr3(0.15)/Spiro-OMeTAD/Au. Notably, low short circuit current (Jsc) was observed at low light intensities (<50 W/m2) together with high open circuit potential build-up, which resulted in high PCEs. This response is in agreement with a “double electronic-ionic transport” model of the halide perovskite where the ionic component dominates at low light intensities and the electronic component dictates at high light irradiances. Our results highlight the exceptional stability of mixed MA/FA mesoscopic PSCs when operated for >1000 h under real outdoor conditions and the strong ionic component observed at low light irradiation. © 2016 Elsevier Ltd


  • Electrochemically synthesized mesoporous thin films of ZnO for highly efficient dye sensitized solar cells

    Lima F.A.S., Vasconcelos I.F., Lira-Cantu M. Ceramics International; 41 (8, 10350): 9314 - 9320. 2015. 10.1016/j.ceramint.2015.03.271. IF: 2.605

    Abstract In this work, nanostructured thin films of ZnO were electrochemically grown on FTO substrates. The morphology was tuned by modifying the synthesis parameters. The synthesis was carried out by applying Zn(NO3)·6H2O as the sole component of the aqueous electrolyte, avoiding the use of capping agents. The composition and morphology of the prepared ZnO were characterized by energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (EDX) and scanning electron microscopy (SEM), respectively. The as-deposited films were applied as electrodes in dye sensitized solar cells (DSCs). The performance of the cells was investigated by J×V curves and IPCE (incident photon to charge carrier efficiency) measurements. The SEM analysis demonstrated a direct relationship between ZnO morphology and Zn precursor concentration. It has been shown that the lower the concentration is, the more porous the morphology is. Increasing the amount of dye adsorbed on the ZnO decreased the power conversion efficiency of the final DSCs. The best cell presented the following parameters: open circuit voltage VOC=0.59V, short circuit current JSC=7.64mA/cm2, fill factor FF=50.41%, and power conversion efficiency PCE=2.27%. © 2015 Elsevier Ltd and Techna Group S.r.l.

  • Emerging thin-film photovoltaics: Stabilize or Perish

    Von Hauff E., Lira-Cantu M., Brown T.M., Hoppe H. Advanced Energy Materials; 5 (20, 1501924) 2015. 10.1002/aenm.201501924. IF: 16.146

    [No abstract available]

  • Enhanced photovoltaic performance of inverted hybrid bulk-heterojunction solar cells using TiO2/reduced graphene oxide films as electron transport layers

    Morais A., Alves J.P.C., Lima F.A.S., Lira-Cantu M., Nogueira A.F. Journal of Photonics for Energy; 5 (1, 57408) 2015. 10.1117/1.JPE.5.057408. IF: 1.366

    In this study, we investigated inverted hybrid bulk-heterojunction solar cells with the following configuration: fluorine-doped tin oxide (FTO) jTiO2/RGOjP3HT:PC61BMjV2O5 or PEDOT:PSS|Ag. The TiO2/GO dispersions were prepared by sol-gel method, employing titanium isopropoxide and graphene oxide (GO) as starting materials. The GO concentration was varied from 0.1 to 4.0 wt%. The corresponding dispersions were spin-coated onto FTO substrates and a thermal treatment was performed to remove organic materials and to reduce GO to reduced graphene oxide (RGO). The TiO2/RGO films were characterized by X-ray diffraction, Raman spectroscopy, and microscopy techniques. Atomic force microscopy (AFM) images showed that the addition of RGO significantly changes the morphology of the TiO2 films, with loss of uniformity and increase in surface roughness. Independent of the use of V2O5 or PEDOT: PSS films as the hole transport layer, the incorporation of 2.0 wt% of RGO into TiO2 films was the optimal concentration for the best organic photovoltaic performance. The solar cells based on TiO2/RGO (2.0 wt%) electrode exhibited a ~22.3% and ~28.9% short circuit current density (Jsc) and a power conversion efficiency enhancement, respectively, if compared with the devices based on pure TiO2 films. Kelvin probe force microscopy images suggest that the incorporation of RGO into TiO2 films can promote the appearance of regions with different charge dissipation capacities. © 2015 Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers.

  • Procedures and practices for evaluating thin-film solar cell stability

    Roesch R., Faber T., Von Hauff E., Brown T.M., Lira-Cantu M., Hoppe H. Advanced Energy Materials; 5 (20, 1501407) 2015. 10.1002/aenm.201501407. IF: 16.146

    During the last few decades, and in some cases only the last few years, novel thin-film photovoltaic (PV) technologies such as dye-sensitized solar cells (DSSC), organic solar cells (OPV), and, more recently, perovskite-based solar cells (PSC) have been growing in maturity with respect to device performance and device stability. Together with new material systems, novel device architectures have also been introduced. Both parameters will have an effect on the overall device stability. In order to improve the understanding of degradation effects and how they can be prevented, stress testing under different conditions is commonly applied. By careful combination of stress factors and thorough analysis of photovoltaic parameter decaying curves, an understanding of the underlying degradation pathways can be gained. With the help of standardized and accelerated stress tests, as described in the ISOS-protocols, statements concerning application lifetimes can finally be made and compared among different labs. Once a photovoltaic technology has proven long lasting durability, the ultimate barrier for entering the commercial market are the IEC tests, taking a deeper look on overall safety and reliability, not only on durability. Here, the most prominent stress tests are reviewed, discussed and extended with respect to learning the most about photovoltaic device stability. Common procedures and practices for evaluating thin-film solar cell stability and durability are reviewed with respect to their applicability for predicting failure routes and application lifetimes. Suggestions for the reporting of detailed stress factors, photovoltaic parameters with sufficient statistical weight, and new figures of merit are made with the goal of steepening the learning curve towards real applications. © 2015 WILEY-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim.

  • Vertically Aligned ZnO/Inx S y Core-Shell Nanorods for High Efficient Dye-Sensitized Solar Cells

    Gonzalez-Valls I., Ballesteros B., Lira-Cantu M. Nano; 10 (7, 1550103) 2015. 10.1142/S1793292015501039. IF: 1.090

    Innovative vertically aligned ZnO/InxSy nanorod (NR) electrodes were prepared by successive ion layer adsorption and reaction (SILAR) technique. The InxSy shell layer was deposited on top of ZnO NR electrodes of two different lengths, ~1.6 μm and ~3.2 μm. Two sulfur contents on the InxSy shell layer with different layer thicknesses were analyzed. These electrodes were fully characterized by scanning electron microscopy (SEM), transmission electron microscopy (TEM), X-ray diffraction spectroscopy (XRD), Energy-dispersive x-ray spectroscopy (EDS), Infrared spectroscopy (FT-IR), x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) and ultraviolet photoemission spectroscopy (UPS) and then applied in dye-sensitized solar cells (DSC). Power conversion efficiency of 2.32% was observed when a low-sulfur content InxSy shell layer was applied in comparison to the stoichiometric In2S3 shell layer (0.21%) or the bare ZnO NRs (0.87%). In the case of low sulfur content, a shell layer of In(OH)xSy or/and In(OH)3 is formed as observed by the presence of-OH observed by FTIR analyses. The presence of higher amounts of hydroxide groups modifies the bandgap and work function of the InxSy shell and facilitates dye adsorption, increasing the final solar cell performance. © 2015 World Scientific Publishing Company. © 2015 World Scientific Publishing Company.