- Solar cells
- Large solar panels
- Increased performance
- Less expensive than crystalline silicon solar cells
- Enables thinner, lighter solar panels
- Conducive to roll-to-roll deposition
Alex Zettl, Jeffrey Grossman and Lucas Wagner of Berkeley Lab have invented hydrogenated amorphous silicon solar cells with 30% improved performance compared to solar cells previously made with this material.
Amorphous silicon offers the flexibility to make thinner, lighter solar panels at a lower cost than crystalline silicon. Until now, however, other features of amorphous silicon have made it impractical for use in solar cells. First, the electronic performance of amorphous silicon is typically inferior to that of crystalline silicon. In addition, when hydrogenated to reduce material defects with the goal of improving its electronic performance, amorphous silicon degrades with exposure to light due to an atomic-scale mechanism called the Staebler-Wronski Effect.
By achieving a more accurate and thorough understanding of the Staebler-Wronski Effect, the Berkeley Lab team developed amorphous silicon solar cell compositions that alleviate the effect and improve performance. The new solar cells incorporate alloys that mitigate the local bond strain of silicon atoms found to contribute to the Staebler-Wronski Effect. The solar cells may also integrate nanoscale features and specific manufacturing processes designed to either relieve stress in the material or increase the rigidity of the amorphous silicon bond network. As a result, the solar cells in this invention perform significantly better than earlier amorphous silicon solar cells, and they open the door to the production of lighter, lower cost solar cells compared to current crystalline silicon solar cell technology.
STATUS: Published Patent Application PCT/US2009/053351 available at www.wipo.int. Available for licensing or collaborative research.
REFERENCE NUMBER: IB-2582
SEE THESE OTHER BERKELEY LAB TECHNOLOGIES IN THIS FIELD:
High Efficiency, Self Concentrating Nanoscale Solar Cell, IB-2338
Controlled Structure of Organic-Nanomaterial Solar Cells, IB-2365
Ideal Configuration for Nanoscale Solar Cells, IB-2364
Low Cost, High Efficiency Tandem Silicon Solar Cells, IB-2357