MUNICH, Germany After 23 years of research in the U.S., most recently at the University of California at Berkeley, Eicke Weber will return to Germany to lead the Fraunhofer institute for Solar Energy Systems (ISE) in Freiburg.
Weber's research on defects in silicon and III-V semiconductors like gallium arsenide and gallium nitride is widely recognized. In 1997, he cofounded the Silicon Wafer Engineering and Defect Science consortium, in which twelve companies and nine universities participate.
Of particular interest are the results of Weber's working group at Berkeley. According to Weber's findings, the quantitative degree of transition metal contamination in silicon is not the decisive factor in solar wafer quality. Rather, it is the distribution of these atoms within the silicon crystal that most affects quality. The insight means that solar cells with a high degree of impurities can still produce good current yield, giving rise to Weber's use of "dirty" silicon for solar cell production.
Previously, solar cell production required high-purity silicon, making solar cells relatively expensive. "The use of 'dirty' silicon could bring the global solar cell industry forward by a big deal," Weber said. "Dirty" silicon would not only allow solar cells to be produced much cheaper but also would ease the polysilicon production bottleneck.
Weber said he plans to continue his solar cell work at ISE while expanding into new areas of energy reseach.
Weber has taught material sciences at UC-Berkeley since 1983. He launched his scientific career with physics studies in Cologne, Germany, qualifying as a professor after completing work on transition metals in silicon. In 2004, he was appointed chairman of interdisciplinary Nanoscale Science and Engineering Graduate Group at Berkeley.