Use of Surface Photovoltage Spectroscopy to Measure Built-in Voltage, Space Charge Layer Width, and Effective Band Gap in CdSe Quantum Dot Films

Surface photovoltage spectroscopy (SPS) was used to study the photochemistry of mercaptoethanol-ligated CdSe quantum dot (2.0–4.2 nm diameter) films on indium doped tin oxide (ITO) in the absence of an external bias or electrolyte. The n-type films generate negative voltages under super band gap illumination (0.1–0.5 mW cm–2) by majority carrier injection into the ITO substrate. The photovoltage onset energies track the optical band gaps of the samples and are assigned as effective band gaps of the films. The photovoltage values (−125 to −750 mV) vary with quantum dot sizes and are modulated by the built-in potential of the CdSe–ITO Schottky type contacts. Deviations from the ideal Schottky model are attributed to Fermi level pinning in states approximately 1.1 V negative of the ITO conduction band edge. Positive photovoltage signals of +80 to +125 mV in films of >4.0 nm nanocrystals and in thin (70 nm) nanocrystal films are attributed to electron–hole (polaron) pairs that are polarized by a space charge layer at the CdSe–ITO boundary. The space charge layer is 70–150 nm wide, based on thickness-dependent photovoltage measurements. The ability of SPS to directly measure built-in voltages, space charge layer thickness, sub-band gap states, and effective band gaps in drop-cast quantum dot films aids the understanding of photochemical charge transport in quantum dot solar cells.