Funds to improve solar films

Two new research projects at the PV research group aim to improve the efficiency and stability of thin film solar cells. Professor Miro Zeman aims for 14 percent long-term efficiency. The group received grants totaling 750,000 euro.

The two research projects intend to improve the long-term efficiency of thin film solar cells, Professor Zeman’s specialty at EEMCS. The main attraction of these thin solar films is the strongly reduced need for silicon, because the 250 – 1500 nanometer thin film solar cells are hundreds of times thinner than regular PV cells (between 0.1 and 0.25 mm). Their transparent nature makes it difficult to harvest maximum energy from incident light. The two new projects are aimed at increasing efficiency either by actively capturing the light or by stacking two cells with different spectra.

Graduates interested in photonic structures and optical waveguides should contact Professor Miro Zeman. He just received nearly 300,000 euros for the development of nanophotonic materials in the context of the FOM Stirring of Light programme, and he’s now looking for a suitable PhD student. The candidate will develop a material that will trap incident light and guide it to a photovoltaic film, where it gets absorbed and generates electricity. Such materials, known as photonic materials, typically have dimensions in the same order as the wavelength they are designed to manipulate: 400 – 800 nanometers in the case of light. Ideally, Prof. Zeman explains, the material, which may well be printed, should both reduce reflection (and so ‘look’ black) and guide photons to the silicon layer to be dispersed and absorbed.

The other project, called the ‘tandem cell’, is supervised by Dr Rene van Swaaij (EEMCS). Postdoc researcher, Dr Do Yun Kim, from Korea, will develop a thin film cell which is specifically tuned to shorter wavelengths (less than 500 nm). This blue-absorbing top cell may be mounted on a cell tuned to longer wavelengths (nano crystalline silicon) in order to increase the total efficiency. The project received 460,000 euros from the European KP7 programme.

If both projects succeed, Prof. Zeman expects that solar films may reach 14 percent stable efficiency, which makes them comparable with the more expensive crystalline PV cells.

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