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On the Way to a highly efficient Solar Cell

The Federal Ministry for the Environment supports thin film solar cell research at Jena University
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Alternative energies are not only highly important to avoid the threat of a climatic disaster. Silicon solar cells are nowadays routinely used for the direct electricity generation from sunlight. But the silicon utilized for this is very expensive on the world market. Therefore the physicists from the Fried­rich-Schiller-University Jena (Germany) are counting on thin film solar cells made of the semiconducting material cadmium telluride (CdTe) which already have the greatest potential to lower the costs in photovoltaic devices. "This tech­­nology opens up even more possibilities to make solar energy cheaper," says PD Dr. Heiner Metzner, team leader of the photovoltaic research group at the Jena Institute for Solid State Physics. On the one hand this could happen through better material utilization - a modification of the cell structure with thinner layers. "Moreover theoretical considerations are showing that the effi­ciency can be increased even more," adds the physicist.

Change the material properties of the CdTe in the solar cells

This is what a newly established research project at the Institute for Solid State Physics at the Jena University is looking into: It is about changing the material properties of the CdTe in the solar cells so that its electrical conductivity can be enhanced. "The efficiency of a solar cell could be improved dramatically through the increase of the so-called p-doping: the precise incor­poration of suitable foreign atoms," Metzner explains. According to the theoretical con­si­derations the maximum efficiency of 16% that can be reached in the laboratory at the moment could be increased up to 20%. "If we then succeed in trans­ferring these results into industrial production, the 10% efficiency of the current modules could be increased up to 15%," Metz­ner says. The spectroscopy of defects plays a major role in the develop­ment of modified material. Foreign atoms can be incorporated in the laboratory to examine the microstructure of materials. "We will for instance bombard the CdTe-Material with suitable im­purity atoms using our particle accelerator and we will analyze the effects very precisely," explains Professor Dr. Werner Wesch, team leader of the Jena research group Ion Beam Physics.

The Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Reactor Safety (Bun­desministerium für Umwelt, Naturschutz und Reaktorsicherheit / BMU) is funding the second project about CdTe solar cells at the Institute for Solid State Physics at the Jena University with a total grant of  about 1.8 Million Euros. The Jena scientists have the benefit of a great deal of experience in this field together with the availability of an excellent equipment. The photovoltaic research team has been in existence for ten years and they have a complete process chain and infrastructure for developing and analyzing laboratory cells at their disposal. With the help of the project funds the equipment can be further improved. New additions will include a high-performance solar simulator which can measure the efficiency of the cells very precisely as well as a depo­sition chamber for the variation of the film composition. The research on the thin-layer photovoltaics at the Institute of Solid State Physics not only involves the CdTe-material system but also the CIS (copper-indium-selenide) material system, for which research projects are also under way and which are party subsidised directly by the industry. "We are just breaking a new experimental ground and are hoping to 'grow' an efficient and cost-effective material in the laboratory and thereby to create an innovative and highly efficient solar cell", says Metzner. The physicist believes that the Jena University will be able to build on their already strong position in photovoltaic research even further when this vision becomes reality. 

Contact Details:
PD Dr. Heiner Metzner
Institute for Solid State Physics of the Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena
Max-Wien-Platz 1
D-07743 Jena
Tel: 0049 (0) 3641 / 947353

Meldung vom: 2009-02-24 12:18

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