STUTTGART, Germany, June 29, 2015 — A consortium of 11 European universities, research facilities and businesses has set out to create thin-film solar cells to rival the efficiency and cost of multicrystalline technology.
The three-and-a-half-year project is supported by €4.6 million (about $5.2 million) from the European Union's Horizon 2020 program and €1.6 million (about $1.8 million) from Switzerland's State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation.
It will focus on increasing the efficiency of thin-film solar cells made out of copper indium gallium diselenide (CIGS). The project is called Sharc25, which stands for super-high efficiency CIGS thin-film solar cells approaching 25 percent efficiency.
Solar energy conversion efficiency records and projection according to the goals of the Sharc25 project. Courtesy of Sharc25.
Sharc25 is coordinated by the Centre for Solar Energy and Hydrogen Research Baden-Württemberg (ZSW). Its scientific coordinator is Ayodhya N. Tiwari, head of Empa, the thin film and photovoltaics laboratory at the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology.
The performance of thin-film solar cells based on compound semiconductors has improved markedly in recent years. Empa holds the world record for CIGS efficiency on plastic foil, 20.4 percent, while ZSW holds the record for CIGS on glass, 21.7 percent. Reaching 25 percent efficiency with CIGS would challenge the dominance of multicrystalline solar cells from Asia and give the European thin-film solar industry a competitive edge, according to the two research centers.
The project will pursue three strategies: improving absorber material, harnessing the power of new designs for more efficient surfaces and interfaces, and optimizing light management to raise the efficiency threshold.
The project's mission also calls for the scientists to devise a strategy for translating research results into industrial applications. If the solar industry succeeds in applying the technology, the cost of manufacturing solar modules in Europe could drop below 35 eurocents per watt peak, and the cost of installed photovoltaic systems would drop to below 60 eurocents per watt peak.
Further savings could be achieved by ramping up the new technology for mass production. This would drive down investment costs, for example, to less than 75 eurocents per watt peak for solar CIGS module factories with more than 100-MW manufacturing capacity.
Other project partners include the universities of Luxembourg, Rouen, Parma and Aalto; imec, a research institute in Belgium; the Helmholtz Center for Materials and Energy in Berlin; the International Iberian Nanotechnology Laboratory (INL) in Portugal; Flisom AG of Switzerland; and Manz CIGS Technology GmbH in Germany.
For more information, visit www.zsw-bw.de.