A group of European researchers led by IMEC has begun work under the EU’s 7th Framework Program to improve solar cell efficiencies and costs through incorporation of metallic nanostructures.
March 30, 2010 – A group of European researchers led by IMEC has begun work under the EU’s 7th Framework Program to improve solar cell efficiencies and costs through incorporation of metallic nanostructures.
The three-year, €3.4M (€2.3M-funded) project, code-named “PRIMA” (Plasmon Resonance for IMproving the Absorption of solar cells), seeks to identify and examine how metal nanostructures can enhance absorption of light into different types of solar cells: crystalline silicon (c-Si), high-performance III-V, organic, and dye-sensitized solar cells.
Certain nanostructured metallic surfaces can absorb and intensify light at specific wavelengths, utilizing the collective oscillation of electrons on the metal’s surface — i.e., a phenomenon studied as “plasmonics.” This has been investigated for solar cells for some time. (Other applications for plasmonics include integrating high-speed CMOS and nanophotonic circuitry, and nanoparticles that recognize and interact with biomolecules.)
For PRIMA’s purposes, the partners will gauge the manufacturability of the nanostructures and their integration into existing solar-cell manufacturing process flows, to identify and test “industrially relevant structures.” Performance will be benchmarked by (unidentified) solar-cell companies. Enhancing the absorption using plasmonics also means solar cells can be made thinner, using less material and lowering costs.
PRIMA participants include project coordinator IMEC; Imperial College (London, UK); Chalmers University of Technology (Sweden); Photovoltech (Belgium); Quantasol (UK); and Australian National University (Australia).