a-Si PV efficiency chases c-Si thanks to nano-structuring

Singapore’s A*STAR Institute of Microelectronics and Nanyang Technological University used a nanostructure texture on amorphous silicon to boost solar cell efficiency without greatly increasing the cost.

October 13, 2011 — Singapore’s A*STAR Institute of Microelectronics (IME) and Nanyang Technological University (NTU) used a nanostructure texture on amorphous silicon (a-Si) to boost solar cell efficiency without greatly increasing the cost.

The nanostructured solar cell generates electricity currents of 34.3mA/cm2, close to the 40mA/cm2 produced by traditional high-quality crystalline-silicon (c-Si) solar cells, researchers report.

Amorphous silicon is over 100x thinner than crystalline silicon and costs much less. It typically has about half the conversion efficiency of c-Si photovoltaics. The nanostructuring method leaves a texture on the a-Si surface that increases power conversion by increasing light absorption and carrier recombination in the cells, said Dr. Navab Singh, senior scientist of IME’s NanoElectronics Programme.

Also read: ICON rolls out 2 roll-to-roll nano imprinting processes

Future improvements to fill factor and open circuit voltage could bring the thin-film silicon cells’ power conversion efficiency in line with that of bulk-silicon solar cells: about 20-25%, Singh added. Additional light-trapping strategies such as plasmonics will be a topic of further research.

“Cheap, efficient and easy to manufacture” thin-film silicon solar cells will encourage solar cell adoption, particularly in developing economies, noted Professor Cheng Tee Hiang, Chair of the School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at NTU. “Demand for thin film solar cells will double by 2013,” agreed Professor Dim-Lee Kwong, Executive Director of IME.

Sustainability is one of NTU?s Five Peaks of Excellence which the university aims to make its mark globally under NTU 2015 five year strategic plan. The other four peaks include future healthcare, new media, the best of the East and West, and innovation. Learn more at www.ntu.edu.sg.

The Institute of Microelectronics (IME) is a research institute of the Science and Engineering Research Council of the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) in Singapore. Its key research areas are in integrated circuits design, advanced packaging, bioelectronics and medical devices, MEMS, nanoelectronics, and photonics. For more information, visit IME at http://www.ime.a-star.edu.sg. A*STAR is the lead agency for fostering world-class scientific research and talent for a vibrant knowledge-based and innovation-driven Singapore.

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