Thiols passivate recombination centers in colloidal quantum dots leading to enhanced photovoltaic device efficiency

D. Aaron R. Barkhouse, Andras G. Pattantyus-Abraham, Larissa Levina, Edward H. Sargent*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

208 Scopus citations


The use of thiol-terminated ligands has recently been reported to enhance 10-fold the power conversion efficiency (PCE) of colloidal quantum dot (CQD) photovoltaic (PV) devices. We find herein that, in a representative amine-capped PbS colloidal quantum dot materials system, improved mobility following thiol treatment accounts for only a 1.4-fold increase in PCE. We then proceed to investigate the origins of the remainder of the quadrupling in PCE following thiol treatment. We find through measurements of photoluminescence quantum efficiency that exposure to thiols dramatically enhances photoluminescence in colloidal quantum dot films. The same molecules increase open-circuit voltage (Voc) from 0.28 to 0.43 V. Combined, these findings suggest that mid-gap states, which serve as recombination centers (lowering external quantum efficiency (EQE)) and metal - semiconductor junction interface states (lowering Voc), are substantially passivated using thiols. Through exposure to thiols, we improve EQE from 5 to 22% and, combined with the improvement in Voc, improve power conversion efficiency to 2.6% under 76 mW/cm2 at 1 μm wavelength. These findings are consistent with recent reports in photoconductive PbS CQD photodetectors that thiol exposure substantially removes deep (0.3 eV) electron traps, leaving only shallow (0.1 eV) traps.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2356-2362
Number of pages7
JournalACS nano
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2008


  • Ethanethiol
  • Lead sulfide
  • Passivation
  • Photovoltaic
  • Quantum dot
  • Recombination
  • Solution-processed

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Materials Science
  • General Engineering
  • General Physics and Astronomy


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