PARIS - German research center Forschungszentrum Jülich announced it is coordinating a three-year project aimed at accelerating the development and prototyping of nanotechnology-based high-efficiency thin-film silicon solar modules.
Recent efforts in thin-film silicon (TFSi) were made at solving industrialization issues, researchers said. In 2010, several companies demonstrated 10-percent stable modules (> 1 m²). The major bricks for efficient production are now in place. Next challenges are linked to the fact that TFSi multi-junction devices, allowing for higher efficiency, are complex devices, in which the substrate geometry and each layer have an impact on the full device.
Project partners said they will join forces to develop a new generation of thin-film silicon solar modules with an efficiency of 12 percent. To achieve this objective, the consortium said it will introduce novel materials, including multi-phase nanomaterials (such as doped nc-SiOx, high crystallinity nc-Si materials), stable top cell materials, nanoimprinted substrates and novel or adapted transparent conductive oxides.
Researchers said they expect to design and implement ideal device structures, taking into account the full interaction of layers in multi-junction devices. They will also control the growth of active layers on texture materials.
Project partners claimed they will work at processes that could allow a further extension of the technology such as very high rate nc-Si deposition or multi-step super-strate etching. Finally, they expect to transfer processes, including static and dynamic plasma deposition, from the laboratory to pilot scale, with first trials in production lines.
Indeed, partners said they expect to achieve solar cells with 14-percent stable efficiency, leading to the demonstration of reliable production size prototypes module at 12 percent level.
The EU Fast Track project has a total budget of 14.4 million euros ($19.2 million) and is set to receive 9.3 million euros ($12.4 million) in funding from the European Commission.
The eighteen project partners include Oerlikon Solar AG, SolarExcel B.V., CVD Technologies Ltd, Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Uniresearch BV, Technische Universiteit Delft, Technische Universität Dresden, Universiteit Utrecht, as well as France’s CNRS.
Thin-film silicon solar modules can be produced much more economically than conventional solar cells. In the case of thin-film modules, the silicon is applied to the substrate in a layer about one micrometer thick and does not need to be carefully cut out from expensive wafers. (Source: Forschungszentrum Jülich)
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