Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Tandem solar cells are simply better

23.11.2015

Stacking two solar cells one over the other has advantages: Because the energy is “harvested” in two stages, and overall the sunlight can be converted to electricity more efficiently. Empa researchers have come up with a procedure that makes it possible to produce thin film tandem solar cells in which a thin perovskite layer is used. The processing of perovskite takes place at just 50 degrees Celsius and such a process is potentially applicable for low cost roll-to-roll production in future.

What is true for double-blade razors is also true for solar cells: two work steps are more thorough than one. Stacking two solar cells one on top of the other, where top cell is semi-transparent, which efficiently converts large energy photons into electricity, while the bottom cell converts the remaining or transmitted low energy photons in an optimum manner.


The semi-transparent perovskite solar cell absorbs UV, blue and yellow visible light. It allows red light and infrared radiation to pass through. Based on this principle, a “tandem solar

Empa

This allows a larger portion of the light energy to be converted to electricity. Up to now, the sophisticated technology needed for the procedure was mainly confined to the realm of Space or Concentrated Photovoltaics (CPV). These “tandem cells” grown on very expensive single crystal wafers are considered not attractive for mass production and low cost solar electricity.

The research team working under Stephan Buecheler and Ayodhya N. Tiwari from the Laboratory for Thin Films and Photovoltaics at Empa-Swiss Federal Laboratories for Material Science and Technology has now succeeded in making tandem solar cells that are based on polycrystalline thin films, and the methods are suitable for large area low cost processing, Flexible plastic or metal foils could also be used as substrate in future. This marks a major milestone on the path to mass production of high-efficiency solar cells with low cost processes.

The secret behind the new process is that the researchers create the top solar cell perovskite film with a low-temperature procedure at just 50 degrees Celsius. This promises an energy-saving and cost-saving production stage for future manufacturing processes. The tandem solar cell yielded an efficiency rate of 20.5% when converting light to electricity. Already with this first attempt Empa researchers have emphasized that it has lots more potential to offer for better conversion of solar spectrum into electricity.

Molecular soccer balls as a substrate for the magic Crystal

The key to this double success was the development of a 14.2% efficient semi-transparent solar cell, with 72% average transparency, made from methylammonium lead iodide deposited in the form of tiny perovskite crystals. The perovskite is grown on a thin interlayer made of the substance abbreviated as PCBM (phenyl-C61-butyric acid methyl ester) is used.

Each PCBM molecule contains 61 carbon atoms interconnected in the shape of a soccer ball. The perovskite film is prepared by a combination of vapour deposition and spin coating onto this layer, which has tiny football like structure, followed by an annealing at a “lukewarm” temperature. This magic perovskite crystal absorbs blue and yellow spectrum of visible light and converts these into electricity. By contrast, red light and infrared radiation simply pass through the crystal. As a result, the researchers can attach a further solar cell underneath the semi-transparent perovskite cell in order to convert the remaining light into electricity.

Advantage of the double-layer cell: better use of the spectrum of sunlight

For the lower layer of the tandem solar cell, the Empa researchers use a CIGS cell (copper indium gallium diselenide), a technique that the team has been researching for years. Based on the CIGS cells, small-scale production is already under way for flexible solar cells (see Empa News from 11 June 2015). The advantage of tandem solar cells is that they exploit sunlight better.

A solar cell can only convert radiation with an energy level higher than the bandgap of the semiconductor used. If the radiation energy is lower, no electricity is generated. If the radiation is higher in energy, the excess radiated energy is converted to heat and is lost. A double-layer solar cell like Empa’s perovskite CIGS cell can combine substances with differing bandgaps and thus efficiently convert a larger share of the incident solar energy to electricity.

More than 30% efficiency is possible

While very good single-layer polycrystalline solar cell may practically convert a maximum of 25% of the solar energy to electricity, tandem solar cells could increase this figure to beyond 30%. That’s according to Ayodhya Tiwari, head of the Thin Film and Photovoltaics laboratory. He does say, however, that a lot of research work is needed before that will be possible.

“What we have achieved now is just the beginning. We will have to overcome many obstacles before reaching this ambitious goal. To do this, we will need lots of interdisciplinary experience and a large number of combinatorial experiments until we have found a semi-transparent high-performance cell together with the right base cell, and technologies for electrical interconnections of these solar cells.”

Stephan Bücheler, who coordinates the lab research in Tiwari’s team, reminds us that the race for efficiency in solar cell research is certainly not just an academic show. “When producing solar-powered electricity, only half of the costs are down to the solar module itself. The other half are incurred for the infrastructure: inverters, cables, carriers for the cells, engineering costs and installation. These ancillary costs are reduced when the solar cells become more efficient and can be built in smaller sizes as a result. This means that efficient solar cells are the key to low-cost renewable electricity.”

Weitere Informationen:

http://www.empa.ch/plugin/template/empa/3/162772/---/l=2 Empa media release
http://www.nature.com/ncomms/2015/151118/ncomms9932/full/ncomms9932.html original paper

Rainer Klose | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft

Further reports about: CIGS Empa Photovoltaics Tandem electricity mass production photons processes soccer solar cells solar energy

More articles from Power and Electrical Engineering:

nachricht Harvesting the Sun for Power and Produce
24.11.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Solare Energiesysteme ISE

nachricht Batteries with better performance and improved safety
23.11.2017 | Empa - Eidgenössische Materialprüfungs- und Forschungsanstalt

All articles from Power and Electrical Engineering >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New proton record: Researchers measure magnetic moment with greatest possible precision

High-precision measurement of the g-factor eleven times more precise than before / Results indicate a strong similarity between protons and antiprotons

The magnetic moment of an individual proton is inconceivably small, but can still be quantified. The basis for undertaking this measurement was laid over ten...

Im Focus: Frictional Heat Powers Hydrothermal Activity on Enceladus

Computer simulation shows how the icy moon heats water in a porous rock core

Heat from the friction of rocks caused by tidal forces could be the “engine” for the hydrothermal activity on Saturn's moon Enceladus. This presupposes that...

Im Focus: Nanoparticles help with malaria diagnosis – new rapid test in development

The WHO reports an estimated 429,000 malaria deaths each year. The disease mostly affects tropical and subtropical regions and in particular the African continent. The Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research ISC teamed up with the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology IME and the Institute of Tropical Medicine at the University of Tübingen for a new test method to detect malaria parasites in blood. The idea of the research project “NanoFRET” is to develop a highly sensitive and reliable rapid diagnostic test so that patient treatment can begin as early as possible.

Malaria is caused by parasites transmitted by mosquito bite. The most dangerous form of malaria is malaria tropica. Left untreated, it is fatal in most cases....

Im Focus: A “cosmic snake” reveals the structure of remote galaxies

The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.

Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...

Im Focus: Visual intelligence is not the same as IQ

Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.

That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Ecology Across Borders: International conference brings together 1,500 ecologists

15.11.2017 | Event News

Road into laboratory: Users discuss biaxial fatigue-testing for car and truck wheel

15.11.2017 | Event News

#Berlin5GWeek: The right network for Industry 4.0

30.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

IceCube experiment finds Earth can block high-energy particles from nuclear reactions

24.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A 'half-hearted' solution to one-sided heart failure

24.11.2017 | Health and Medicine

Heidelberg Researchers Study Unique Underwater Stalactites

24.11.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>