Colloidal quantum-confined semiconductor nanostructures are an emerging class of functional material that are being developed for novel solar energy conversion strategies. One of the largest losses in a bulk or thin film solar cell occurs within a few picoseconds after the photon is absorbed, as photons with energy larger than the semiconductor bandgap produce charge-carriers with excess kinetic energy, which is then dissipated via phonon emission. Semiconductor nanostructures, where at least one dimension is small enough to produce quantum confinement effects, provide new pathways for controlling energy flow and therefore have the potential to increase the efficiency of the primary photoconversion step. In this review, we provide the current status of research efforts towards utilizing the unique properties of colloidal quantum dots (nanocrystals confined in three dimensions) in prototype solar cells and demonstrate that these unique systems have the potential to bypass the Shockley-Queisser single-junction limit for solar photon conversion.

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DOI: 10.1016/S1369-7021(12)70220-1