Solar

Dow, CalTech eye more “abundant” thin-film solar materials

Dow Chemical and the California Institute of Technology are forging a new collaboration to develop semiconductor materials that are less expensive and more abundant than today’s thin-film solar-cell materials.

November 19, 2009 – Dow Chemical and the California Institute of Technology are forging a new collaboration to develop semiconductor materials that are less expensive and more abundant than today’s thin-film solar-cell materials.

The four-year, $4.2M effort — which includes creation of a graduate fellowship in chemical sciences/engineering, with $500K from Dow matched 50% by the school — will explore “earth-abundant” materials for solar energy applications, developing “mineral-like electronic materials” for thin-film solar energy conversion devices. Silicon is of course a common material, but is pricier than thin-film alternatives such as CdTe and CIS/CIGS — but those cheaper materials are also scarce.

“Use of earth-abundant materials can provide new technology options and could open new areas of design space,” according to Caltech chemistry professor Nate Lewis. “This project will develop the science and technology base for thin-film solar-energy conversion using these widely available materials.”

“Dow understands that high-quality research is occurring in both industrial and academic laboratories. We believe that partnerships like this one are crucial to our success in the development of efficient, affordable energy solutions,” noted Bill Banholzer, EVP/CTO of Dow.