Measurement of minority-carrier diffusion lengths using wedge-shaped semiconductor photoelectrodes

Ragip A. Pala, Andrew J. Leenheer, Michael Lichterman, Harry A. Atwater, Nathan S. Lewis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Citations (Scopus)


Measurement of the photocurrent as a function of the thickness of a light absorber has been shown herein both theoretically and experimentally to provide a method for determination of the minority-carrier diffusion length of a sample. To perform the measurement, an illuminated spot of photons with an energy well above the band gap of the material was scanned along the thickness gradient of a wedge-shaped, rear-illuminated semiconducting light absorber. Photogenerated majority carriers were collected through a back-side transparent ohmic contact, and a front-side liquid or Schottky junction collected the photogenerated minority carriers. Calculations showed that the diffusion length could be evaluated from the exponential variation in photocurrent as a function of the thickness of the sample. Good agreement was observed between experiment and theory for a solid-state silicon Schottky junction measured using this method. As an example for the application of the technique to semiconductor/liquid-junction photoelectrodes, the minority-carrier diffusion length was determined for graded thickness, sputtered tungsten trioxide and polished bismuth vanadate films under back-illumination in contact with an aqueous electrolyte. This wedge technique does not require knowledge of the spectral absorption coefficient, doping, or surface recombination velocity of the sample.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3424-3430
Number of pages7
JournalEnergy and Environmental Science
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 1 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Nuclear Energy and Engineering
  • Pollution

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