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Exciton multiplication from first principles

Heather M Jaeger, Kim Hyeon-Deuk, Oleg V Prezhdo
Accounts of Chemical Research 2013 June 18, 46 (6): 1280-9
23459543
Third-generation photovolatics require demanding cost and power conversion efficiency standards, which may be achieved through efficient exciton multiplication. Therefore, generating more than one electron-hole pair from the absorption of a single photon has vast ramifications on solar power conversion technology. Unlike their bulk counterparts, irradiated semiconductor quantum dots exhibit efficient exciton multiplication, due to confinement-enhanced Coulomb interactions and slower nonradiative losses. The exact characterization of the complicated photoexcited processes within quantum-dot photovoltaics is a work in progress. In this Account, we focus on the photophysics of nanocrystals and investigate three constituent processes of exciton multiplication, including photoexcitation, phonon-induced dephasing, and impact ionization. We quantify the role of each process in exciton multiplication through ab initio computation and analysis of many-electron wave functions. The probability of observing a multiple exciton in a photoexcited state is proportional to the magnitude of electron correlation, where correlated electrons can be simultaneously promoted across the band gap. Energies of multiple excitons are determined directly from the excited state wave functions, defining the threshold for multiple exciton generation. This threshold is strongly perturbed in the presence of surface defects, dopants, and ionization. Within a few femtoseconds following photoexcitation, the quantum state loses coherence through interactions with the vibrating atomic lattice. The phase relationship between single excitons and multiple excitons dissipates first, followed by multiple exciton fission. Single excitons are coupled to multiple excitons through Coulomb and electron-phonon interactions, and as a consequence, single excitons convert to multiple excitons and vice versa. Here, exciton multiplication depends on the initial energy and coupling magnitude and competes with electron-phonon energy relaxation. Multiple excitons are generated through impact ionization within picoseconds. The basis of exciton multiplication in quantum dots is the collective result of photoexcitation, dephasing, and nonadiabatic evolution. Each process is characterized by a distinct time-scale, and the overall multiple exciton generation dynamics is complete by about 10 ps. Without relying on semiempirical parameters, we computed quantum mechanical probabilities of multiple excitons for small model systems. Because exciton correlations and coherences are microscopic, quantum properties, results for small model systems can be extrapolated to larger, realistic quantum dots.

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