NREL Scientist Dr Heather Platt and New Energy Principal Scientist Dr Scott Hammond (credit New Energy Technologies)

Scientists improve manufacturing of see-through solar cells

New Energy Technologies has announced an improvement in manufacturing see-through solar cells generating electricity on glass.

US solar company New Energy Technologies collaborated with the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) on developing low-cost materials and an application technique to optimise the movement of electrons within the ultra-thin solar cells.

This should increase the amount of electricity produced when New Energy’s see-through SolarWindow prototype is exposed to natural or artificial light.

“Over the past few months, our researchers have unveiled a virtually invisible conductive wiring system, which collects and transports electricity on SolarWindow prototypes,” said John Conklin, President and CEO of New Energy Technologies.

“They have fabricated a large area working module, which is more than 14-times larger than previous organic photovoltaic devices fabricated at NREL.”

The improved process can be carried out at ambient pressure and low temperatures.

This means researchers can avoid using materials that must be deposited using high temperature vacuum deposition, which is expensive and time-consuming, and therefore not practical for high speed and large-scale applications.

“Earlier, we developed our first-ever working SolarWindow prototype using a faster, rapid scale-up process for applying solution-based coatings,” said Conklin.

“Together, these achievements have moved us closer to our manufacturing, scale-up, durability, and power production goals – all important factors to advancing our SolarWindow technology towards commercial launch.”

New Energy Technologies said the innovation promotes low processing temperatures, enabling high-speed roll-to-roll (R2R) and sheet-to-sheet (S2S) manufacturing.

This large-area, R2R and S2S fabrication capability and improved durability of SolarWindow technology are crucial for production of market-ready electricity-generating coatings on see-through glass and plastic.

To generate electricity on SolarWindow prototypes, researchers creatively layer and arrange unique, ultra-thin see-through solar cells onto glass.

Each of these cells is arranged in a network and interconnected by way of a virtually invisible grid-like wiring system.

Within these ultra-thin solar cells, the light-induced movement of electrons generates electricity.

When SolarWindow prototypes are exposed to light, the light’s energy prompts electron movement through specific physical and chemical mechanisms leading to power generation.

Dr Scott Hammond, principal scientist at New Energy Technologies, said the discovery could also favorably improve durability and shelf-life of the company’s future SolarWindow products.

“NREL scientists have previously published unrelated results that demonstrate dramatic improvements to the operational and shelf-life of unprotected photovoltaic devices utilizing related materials when subjected to continuous illumination,” he said.

“This is a promising and significant advancement.”

SolarWindow technology is currently under development for eventual commercial deployment in the estimated 85 million commercial buildings and homes in America.

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