The reduction in costs for photovoltaics will be driven in large part by materials development integrated with advanced manufacturing processes. Here at the Conn Center we are researching means to reduce the cost of solar energy by focusing on materials that can be adapted into roll-to-roll manufacturing platforms. Nanomaterials are an ideal source since they are simply incorporated into inks and slurries for solution deposition. Thin film printing techniques especially those utilized in roll-to-roll processes have a huge opportunity to drastically reduce the cost of photovoltaic manufacturing. Roll-to-roll processes are a proven technology for the wide area deposition of thin films and are extremely versatile and fast. And there exists today a very large infrastructure for thin film printing, both in terms of facilities and know how. Here at the Conn Center, we are trying to tap into this vast network to help reduce the cost of solar energy.
The perovskite solar cell is a thin film device that can be processed using solution phase processes that are easily scalable to roll-to-roll platforms. The work being undertaken at the Conn Center with this technology is geared towards the rapid deposition and post-processing of the perovskite materials. This includes research that explores the fundamental interaction between the formulation chemistry, deposition process and photonic annealing (using IPL). The intent is to build a technology that can produce a perovskite solar cell using traditional roll-to-roll techniques operating at high web speeds.
The intense pulsed light process is a rapid process that can be simply incorporated into large scale manufacturing platforms such as roll-to-roll. The work being undertaken at the Conn Center with this technology is geared towards understanding the interaction of the light pulses and the deposited chemistry to achieve functional bulk thin films for various technologies. We have used the method with metal, metal oxide, metal-organic, graphene-oxide and semiconductors of binary, ternary and higher order compositions.
Metal films have numerous applications in devices manufactured through roll-to-roll process and for solar cells and printed electronics this is typically as a conductor. The work being undertaken at the Conn Center with this technology is geared towards developing stable inks of metal nanoparticles using water based solvents. These inks are capable of being processed using intense pulsed light and incorporated into devices such as flexible electronics and solar cells.
Thin film absorbers of a few microns in thickness offer an advantage in cost as the material needs are greatly reduced. Our group is interested in developing new processes to deposit these materials economically over wide areas using near atmospheric processes. The research explores the interface between materials synthesis/deposition and post-processing and has included chalcogenide and dye sensitized devices.