Solar modules consist of layered components, including antireflection coatings, transparent electrodes, absorbers and an encapsulant. The 18 BAPVC grant recipients will focus on developing new materials and processes that improve efficiency and drive down the manufacturing cost of each component.
"The most direct way to reduce cost is to double the efficiency," Benner said. "We're aiming at technologies that will increase the efficiency of thin-film modules from 12 percent, where they are today, to 20 percent within five years."
One research team, led by Eli Yablonovitch, a professor of electrical engineering and computer sciences at UC-Berkeley, is developing high-voltage solar cell absorbers with an efficiency of 34 percent.
Several researchers are testing nanotechnologies that could improve the absorption and trapping of sunlight. For example, Mark Brongersma, an associate professor of materials science and engineering at Stanford, is developing new nanofabrication techniques that would make metallic electrodes virtually invisible to incoming light.
"Light management is very important," Benner said. "If you can do that well, you can make the devices 10 times thinner than they are today. Ten times thinner means that the manufacturing throughput could operate 10 times faster and consume 10 times less material, so it's a win-win on the cost side as well."
Researchers are also looking for ways to improve the encapsulation system the glass and polymer sheets that protect the solar cell from the environment. The consortium is funding a research team from LBNL, SLAC, UC-Berkeley and Stanford to create superior and lower-cost barrier layers made of a novel polymer-nanocrystal composite.
A complete list of the 18 research awards is available here. A second request for proposals has gone t
|Contact: Mark Shwartz|