23 April 2010

Advance Made In Thin-Film Solar Cell Technology

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Researchers have made an important breakthrough in the use of continuous flow microreactors to produce thin film absorbers for solar cells - an innovative technology that could significantly reduce the cost of solar energy devices and reduce material waste

The advance was just reported in Current Applied Physics, a professional journal, by engineers from Oregon State University and Yeungnam University in Korea.

This is one of the first demonstrations that this type of technology, which is safer, faster and more economical than previous chemical solution approaches, could be used to continuously and rapidly deposit thin film absorbers for solar cells from such compounds as copper indium diselenide.

Previous approaches to use this compound - which is one of the leading photovoltaic alternatives to silicon-based solar energy devices - have depended on methods such as sputtering, evaporation, and electrodeposition. Those processes can be time-consuming, or require expensive vacuum systems or exotic chemicals that raise production costs.

Chemical bath deposition is a low-cost deposition technique that was developed more than a century ago. It is normally performed as a batch process, but changes in the growth solution over time make it difficult to control thickness. The depletion of reactants also limits the achievable thickness.

The technology invented at Oregon State University to deposit "nanostructure films" on various surfaces in a continuous flow microreactor, however, addresses some of these issues and makes the use of this process more commercially practical. A patent has been applied for on this approach, officials said.

"We've now demonstrated that this system can produce thin-film solar absorbers on a glass substrate in a short time, and that's quite significant," said Chih-hung Chang, an associate professor in the OSU School of Chemical, Biological and Environmental Engineering. "That's the first time this has been done with this new technique."


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