Australian National University (ANU) researchers have created a tool to help manufacturers easily find defects in everyday technologies earlier in the fabrication process. An invention like this could have us, one day, waving goodbye to faulty mobile phones, batteries, and solar cells.
The system works by looking at semiconductor materials in high-resolution photos, which reveal any imperfections in mere seconds.
“We’re calling it ‘the miracle of speed and space.’ It’s not just several times faster than techniques currently being used—it’s tens of thousands of times faster,” says Dr. Hieu Nguyen from the ANU Research School of Electrical, Energy, and Materials Engineering. “This opens the door to a new generation of ultra-high resolution, precise characterization, and defect-detection tools for both research and industry sectors.”
In collaboration with U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory scientists, the researchers discovered that silicon, perovskites, thin films, and other semiconductor materials emitted light with telling characteristics. As the cameras capture this distinctive light, important information is relayed back to the team.
“Now we know much more about the property of the light—and, just from the image, we can extract different information with incredible depth,” Dr. Nguyen says. “The beautiful part of this research is that we used ordinary tools that are commercially available, and converted them into something extraordinary.”
To demonstrate the detection tool, the team took photos of the optical bandgap, which disclose a host of semiconductor properties, such as its ability to conduct electricity and absorb light, according to ANU.
“We tested this invention extensively on various state-of-the-art perovskite solar cells made here at ANU and independently confirmed the results with many other low-speed or low-resolution techniques. They matched perfectly,” says Dr. Nguyen.
According to ANU co-author Boyi Chen, “Before this invention, it took an entire week to get a high-quality bandgap image on a device. Now, with our invention, it takes just a few seconds to get an image with the same quality. This invention will help to produce more robust mobile phones, solar cells, sensors, and other optical devices as it can spot defects very early in the fabrication process.”
The full research details can be found in the article, “Imaging Spatial Variations of Optical Bandgaps in Perovskite Solar Cells,” published in Advanced Energy Materials.