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Inexpensive Coating Cuts Glare, Boosts Efficiency in Solar Panels

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LOUGHBOROUGH, England, April 15, 2014 — A coating similar to that used on eyeglasses could reduce glare and boost efficiency for photovoltaics.

Researchers at Loughborough University’s Centre for Renewable Energy and Sustainable Technology developed a multilayer antireflection coating that reduces reflection by more than 70 percent across the wavelength range accepted by solar panels.

“They improve the module power output by about 4 percent and will be low cost if manufactured in high volume," said professor Michael Walls, who devised the antireflective coating with Dr. Piotr Kaminski and Fabiana Lisco.

The 300-nm-thick coating consists of four alternate layers of zirconium oxide and silicon dioxide. The materials were chosen because they are abundant and low cost. The coatings are deposited using a magnetron sputtering machine, which was developed by UK-based Power Vision Ltd. to deposit antireflective coatings on eyeglass lenses.

“The AR coating has to be cost-effective and so the design is a compromise,” Kaminski said. “We want the best quality AR coating, but with inexpensive materials and as few layers as possible. Also, the whole stack should be very thin to save time in manufacturing.”

Although the work is specifically aimed at improving the efficiency of thin film cadmium telluride solar cell devices, the coatings can be applied to other thin film technologies such as copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS) and amorphous silicon.

The coating can also be applied to cover glass on crystalline silicon modules and third-generation devices such as organic or perovskite devices.

“Each PV technology operates in a different wavelength range and it is relatively simple to accommodate this in the multilayer design for each case,” Kaminski said.

The work was funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council's Supergen SuperSolar Hub.

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Apr 2014
magnetron sputtering
A variation from standard physical vapor deposition (PVD) coating techniques, magnetron sputtering is a plasma coating process that utilizes magnetic fields to contain the plasma in front of the target in order to intensify the bombardment of ions on the target during the sputtering process. The result of magnetron sputtering is a dense plasma coating deposited on a given substrate that is placed in front of the target.
silicon dioxide
An abundant material found in the form of quartz and agate and as one of the major constituents of sand. The silicates of sodium, calcium, and other metals can be readily fused, and on cooling do not crystallize, but instead form the familiar transparent material glass.
amorphous siliconantireflective coatingcadmium telluridecoatingsConsumerCopper Indium Gallium SelenideenergyEuropeLoughborough Universitymagnetron sputteringmaterialsResearch & Technologysilicon dioxideCentre for Renewable Energy and Sustainable TechnologyPower Vision Ltd.Piotr KaminskiMichael WallsFabiana Lisco

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