The ternary Cu–Sb- and Cu–Bi-chalcogenides presenta rich range of compounds of potential use for large-scale photovoltaics from Earth abundant elements. This paper reviews the state of fundamental knowledge about them, and their technological status with regard to solar cells. Research targets and missing data are highlighted, which may provide opportunities to help realize the goal of sustainable photovoltaics.
The family of ternary Cu–Sb- and Cu–Bi-chalcogenides and their solid solutions present a rich selection of potential candidates for Earth-abundant low toxicity photovoltaic (PV) absorber materials. Moreover, they have some novel features imparted by the ns2 lone pair of electrons on the Sb and Bi ions. This review evaluates them as electronic materials, including experimental and theoretical evaluations of their phases, thermodynamic stability, point defects, conductivity, optical data, and PV performances. Formation of the materials in bulk, thin film, and nanoforms and the properties of the materials are critically assessed with relevance to their suitability for PV devices. There is special emphasis on CuSbS2 and CuSbSe2 which form the mainstay of the device literature and provide the most insights into the present-day limitation of the device efficiencies to 3 or 4%. Missing features of the literature are highlighted and clear statements recommending potential research pathways are made, which may help advance the technological performance from its present stuck position.