RoboMapper: The Future of Efficient Semiconductor Research

  • Researchers at North Carolina State University have introduced RoboMapper, a robot proficient in efficiently and eco-friendly identifying novel semiconductor materials.
  • RoboMapper, can rapidly identify new perovskite materials with improved stability and solar cell efficiency.
Credit: Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain
Credit: Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain

In the technology-driven world, superior semiconductor materials are crucial for advanced devices. Traditional methods of identifying these materials are resource-intensive and slow. Streamlined, efficient research is imperative to foster rapid technological progress and to meet growing energy demands, especially in applications like solar cells.

Researchers at North Carolina State University have developed a robot adept at carrying out experiments in a more efficient and eco-friendly manner to discover a variety of novel semiconductor materials with sought-after qualities. This cutting-edge technology, named RoboMapper, has already shown its prowess in quickly pinpointing advanced perovskite materials with enhanced stability and solar cell performance.

RoboMapper automates the procedure by miniaturizing and placing multiple samples on each chip using modern printing techniques. This allows simultaneous data collection for various materials, saving time and energy. The approach greatly enhances the efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and sustainability in material search, reducing the carbon footprint. It’s nearly 10 times faster than earlier automated methods. The researchers highlighted that RoboMapper, by compactly placing multiple materials on one chip, effectively decreased greenhouse gas emissions by a factor of ten.

Defined by their crystal structure, perovskites excel over silicon in light absorption. Consequently, perovskite solar cells can be more compact and lightweight than their silicon counterparts without compromising their light-to-electricity conversion capacity, underscoring their significance in emerging solar technology research. The team employed RoboMapper to craft alloys from a specific set of elements, producing and analyzing 150 different samples for their suitability in tandem solar cells. The robot assessed crystalline structure, optical properties, and light stability. Using the data, a computational model pinpointed an optimal alloy composition. This alloy was then created through both RoboMapper and traditional lab methods for comparison. 

Through the targeted approach with a specific set of elements, the researchers rapidly pinpointed the most stable composition of perovskite alloys with a desired band gap using RoboMapper. The identified material also exhibited enhanced efficiency in transforming light into electrical energy in solar cells, a result further verified by traditional techniques. Looking forward, the team plan to broaden the alloys tested with RoboMapper and are keen to collaborate with industry partners for new photovoltaic materials or other uses.

Reference: Aram Amassian, Sustainable Materials Acceleration Platform Reveals Stable and Efficient Wide Bandgap Metal Halide Perovskite Alloys, Matter (2023). DOI: 10.1016/j.matt.2023.06.040www.cell.com/matter/fulltext/S2590-2385(23)00344-2