Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Low-cost yet efficient energy production

EU-funded scientists are overcoming the two major bottlenecks to widespread solar cell implementation — cost and efficiency, using novel materials.
Low-cost yet efficient energy production
Solar cell technology that harnesses sunlight to produce electricity is already being implemented commercially in solar panels around the world. However, deep and broad market penetration requires overcoming the current bottlenecks with regard to efficiency and costs.

Scientists initiated the EU-funded project 'Improved material quality and light trapping in thin film silicon solar cells' (SILICON_LIGHT) to increase efficiency and thus decrease energy production costs. Partners developed high-quality, very thin-film silicon layers on inexpensive plastic foil.

Technical goals included developing appropriate textured back contacts to maximise light-trapping in thin films and improved microcrystalline silicon absorber materials for better current collection. In addition, novel transparent conductive oxide (TCO) layers should reduce electric losses and moisture degradation.

Scientists fabricated foils of 30-cm length with textured back contacts. To enhance efficiency, they applied microcrystalline silicon with high crystalline fractions using deposition processes that prevent or mitigate crack formation. High-resolution tunnelling electron microscopy was used to investigate layers.

New TCO materials were developed that combined the advantages of indium tin oxide and zinc oxide and were successfully applied in a pilot-scale production plant. Among these alternative materials, one with improved performance-to-cost ratio was identified. In addition, solar cells made from amorphous silicon with rear side light-scattering texture were fabricated in pilot-scale production.

Materials and components from SILICON_LIGHT innovations are already planned for use by project partners in a variety of components and devices. Ultimately, availability of high-efficiency solar cells with lower prices could positively impact renewable energy usage benefitting manufacturers, end users and the environment.

Related information


Solar cell, thin-film silicon, microcrystalline, transparent conductive oxide, textured back contacts, electron microscopy, amorphous silicon, light-scattering
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