Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors



Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button


android tablet pc

Home > Press > Research on thin-film solar cells heats up at UC Santa Cruz

Sue Carter in her lab. Credit R. Jones.
Sue Carter in her lab. Credit R. Jones.

Abstract:
Sue Carter, a professor of physics at the University of California, Santa Cruz, is pursuing a variety of strategies to develop cheaper and more efficient solar cells. She was awarded five new grants this year totaling more than $1 million to fund her research on new materials and technologies for solar energy.

Research on thin-film solar cells heats up at UC Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz, CA | Posted on November 2nd, 2010

Carter's research focuses on lowering the cost of solar cells and reducing the energy "payback time"--how long it takes a solar cell to generate the amount of energy that was used to manufacture it. Her lab uses thin-film technologies and printable semiconductor materials that enable the production of solar cells using less material and less energy compared to standard manufacturing processes.

While a growing number of companies are now making thin-film solar cells, conventional silicon-based cells still account for the vast majority of photovoltaic systems in use today. Silicon is a cheap and abundant material, but getting the purity and crystalline structure needed for solar cells requires energy-intensive processing at very high temperatures. And silicon cells have to be thick, because silicon does not absorb light very well.

Thin-film solar cells use much less material than silicon cells and offer advantages such as light weight and the potential to deposit them on flexible substrates. Cadmium telluride (CdTe) is currently the leading thin-film material, used in solar cells produced by several companies. But tellurium is one of the rarest elements in the world, which could limit the long-term viability of CdTe cells in the solar energy market. Carter's lab has developed a procedure for making ultrathin CdTe solar cells using cheaper processing and only about 10 percent of the material needed to make standard CdTe cells.

"We do the processing under normal temperatures and pressures, so it uses a lot less energy than vacuum-based processing," Carter said. "And we were able to cut the thickness down from three microns to about 360 nanometers and still get good power efficiencies, so the amount of material you need is almost an order of magnitude less."

These results were reported in a recent paper in Applied Physics Letters (published online on June 15, 2010). Carter's ongoing research to extend this work is funded by a new grant from the California Energy Commission's Energy Innovations Small Grant Program. One of the goals is to deposit the ultrathin CdTe film on a cheap, flexible substrate to make the solar cells more portable, she said.

Carter's lab is also working to develop thin-film solar cells that use cheaper, more abundant materials than CdTe and the other leading thin-film material, copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS). The indium in CIGS cells is almost as rare an element as tellurium.

"If we want to scale up solar energy production to terawatt volumes, we need to use more abundant materials," Carter said.

Alternative thin-film materials being studied in Carter's lab include lead sulfide and copper sulfide. In another recent paper in Applied Physics Letters (published online on July 28, 2010), she and her co-workers reported high efficiency at low temperature in solar cells using lead sulfide and titanium dioxide nanoparticles (semiconductor crystals with dimensions of a few nanometers). This approach makes use of quantum properties of lead sulfide nanoparticles that could, in theory, enable solar cells to achieve much higher efficiencies than current solar technologies. Ongoing work in this area is funded by a National Science Foundation grant for a collaborative effort involving researchers at UCSC, UC Davis, and industry partners.

A separate NSF grant is funding Carter's research on copper-based materials for thin-film solar cells. This work is motivated by concerns about the toxicity of cadmium, lead, and other materials used in thin-film solar cells.

Finally, a Department of Energy grant and an industry grant from Abengoa Solar are funding Carter's work on luminescent solar concentrators. This technology can be used to capture sunlight over a large area and concentrate its energy on a smaller area of solar cells. Many types of dyes, polymers, and other materials can absorb sunlight and then fluoresce, re-emitting the light in a different wavelength. In a luminescent solar concentrator, the fluorescent material is incorporated into a thin, flat sheet. The re-emitted light is guided to the edge of the sheet by "total internal reflection," the same phenomenon that moves light pulses through fiber-optic cables. Solar cells arrayed along the edges convert the light to electricity.

"One of the nice things about this is that the material can be transparent--it looks like a darkened window. So you can integrate the luminescent solar concentrator and the solar cells into the windows of a building," Carter said. "It's also very cheap material, so you're using a less expensive material to collect the sunlight, and that reduces the amount of expensive solar cells you need."

Enclosing the film between plates of glass in a water- and oxygen-free environment can prevent degradation of the luminescent material over time, she said.

Carter's collaborators on these projects include Glenn Alers, adjunct professor of physics; Frank ("Bud") Bridges, professor of physics; industry partners at Abengoa, Add-Vision, and Solexant; and a large number of postdoctoral researchers and graduate and undergraduate students.

In addition to her lab on campus, Carter and Alers direct the Laboratory for Solar Energy and Renewable Fuels (SERF) at the Advanced Studies Laboratories, a UCSC-NASA partnership at NASA Ames Research Center at Moffett Field. "In the campus labs we do mostly basic science. The SERF lab provides a good setting for applied research and collaborations with industry and NASA partners," Carter said.

####

For more information, please click here

Contacts:
Tim Stephens
(831) 459-2495

Copyright © University of California, Santa Cruz

If you have a comment, please Contact us.

Issuers of news releases, not 7th Wave, Inc. or Nanotechnology Now, are solely responsible for the accuracy of the content.

Bookmark:
Delicious Digg Newsvine Google Yahoo Reddit Magnoliacom Furl Facebook

Related News Press

News and information

New synthesis method may shape future of nanostructures, clean energy: Findings advance efficient solar spliting of water into hydrogen fuel September 2nd, 2014

Accounting for Biological Aggregation in Heating and Imaging of Magnetic Nanoparticles September 2nd, 2014

Engineers develop new sensor to detect tiny individual nanoparticles September 2nd, 2014

Future solar panels September 2nd, 2014

Thin films

Picosun joins forces with IMEC for novel, industrial ALD applications August 25th, 2014

An Inkjet-Printed Field-Effect Transistor for Label-Free Biosensing August 11th, 2014

Advanced thin-film technique could deliver long-lasting medication: Nanoscale, biodegradable drug-delivery method could provide a year or more of steady doses August 6th, 2014

New Material Allows for Ultra-Thin Solar Cells August 4th, 2014

Govt.-Legislation/Regulation/Funding/Policy

Secure Computing for the ‘Everyman': Quantum computing goes to market in tech transfer agreement with Allied Minds September 2nd, 2014

Cool Calculations for Cold Atoms: New theory of universal three-body encounters September 2nd, 2014

UO-Berkeley Lab unveil new nano-sized synthetic scaffolding technique: Oil-and-water approach from Richmond's UO lab to spark new line of versatile peptoid nanosheets September 2nd, 2014

Accounting for Biological Aggregation in Heating and Imaging of Magnetic Nanoparticles September 2nd, 2014

Academic/Education

New Vice President Takes Helm at CNSE CMOST: Catherine Gilbert To Lead CNSE Children’s Museum of Science and Technology Through Expansion And Relocation August 29th, 2014

RMIT delivers $30m boost to micro and nano-tech August 26th, 2014

SEMATECH and Newly Merged SUNY CNSE/SUNYIT Launch New Patterning Center to Further Advance Materials Development: Center to Provide Access to Critical Tools that Support Semiconductor Technology Node Development August 7th, 2014

Oxford Instruments Asylum Research and the Center for Nanoscale Systems at Harvard University Present a Workshop on AFM Nanomechanical and Nanoelectrical Characterization, Aug. 21-22 August 6th, 2014

Announcements

New synthesis method may shape future of nanostructures, clean energy: Findings advance efficient solar spliting of water into hydrogen fuel September 2nd, 2014

Accounting for Biological Aggregation in Heating and Imaging of Magnetic Nanoparticles September 2nd, 2014

Engineers develop new sensor to detect tiny individual nanoparticles September 2nd, 2014

Future solar panels September 2nd, 2014

Energy

New synthesis method may shape future of nanostructures, clean energy: Findings advance efficient solar spliting of water into hydrogen fuel September 2nd, 2014

Future solar panels September 2nd, 2014

Novel 'butterfly' molecule could build new sensors, photoenergy conversion devices August 28th, 2014

Aspen Aerogels, Inc. to Present at Barclays CEO Energy-Power Conference August 27th, 2014

Solar/Photovoltaic

Future solar panels September 2nd, 2014

Novel 'butterfly' molecule could build new sensors, photoenergy conversion devices August 28th, 2014

Competition for Graphene: Berkeley Lab Researchers Demonstrate Ultrafast Charge Transfer in New Family of 2D Semiconductors August 26th, 2014

Eco-friendly 'pre-fab nanoparticles' could revolutionize nano manufacturing: UMass Amherst team invents a way to create versatile, water-soluble nano-modules August 13th, 2014

NanoNews-Digest
The latest news from around the world, FREE



  Premium Products
NanoNews-Custom
Only the news you want to read!
 Learn More
NanoTech-Transfer
University Technology Transfer & Patents
 Learn More
NanoStrategies
Full-service, expert consulting
 Learn More














ASP
Nanotechnology Now Featured Books




NNN

The Hunger Project







© Copyright 1999-2014 7th Wave, Inc. All Rights Reserved PRIVACY POLICY :: CONTACT US :: STATS :: SITE MAP :: ADVERTISE