NREL Puts Sound Waves To Test In Making Solar Cells Cheaper

Sound waves may play a component in making III-V photo voltaic cells extra reasonably priced for earth-bound purposes, based on newly printed analysis led by scientists on the U.S. Division of Vitality’s Nationwide Renewable Vitality Laboratory (NREL).

A pattern of a gallium arsenide photo voltaic cell. Photograph by Dennis Schroeder, NREL.

Researchers say the appliance of sound waves, utilized in a brand new course of referred to as acoustic spalling, holds the potential for considerably lowered price in manufacturing these kinds of extremely environment friendly photo voltaic cells.

The III-V photo voltaic cells are referred to as that as a result of they’re grown utilizing parts from the III and V teams of the periodic desk. Whereas III-V photo voltaic cells are extremely environment friendly, their price has restricted their use to house purposes reminiscent of powering satellites. Decreasing manufacturing prices is taken into account key to terrestrial purposes, and one method to accomplish that is by being able to repeatedly reuse the substrate upon which the cells are grown.

“That is tremendous promising for the substrate reuse,” stated Kevin Schulte, a scientist in NREL’s Excessive-Effectivity Crystalline PV group and the lead writer of the journal article detailing the success of acoustic spalling. “This alone is not going to make III-V photo voltaic cells cost-effective, however as a part of this portfolio of analysis, we’re attempting handle price from a number of totally different angles.”

The article, “GaAs solar cells grown on acoustically spalled substrates with 27% efficiency,” seems within the journal Joule.

Present expertise makes use of a sacrificial etch layer, which permits a cell to be lifted off a gallium arsenide (GaAs) substrate in order that the substrate can be utilized once more, however the course of takes hours and leaves behind a residue that requires a sprucing step. Sharpening is comparatively costly and limits the potential price financial savings of this substrate reuse methodology. In distinction, spalling takes seconds, making a managed fracture throughout the substrate practically parallel to its floor. This fracture permits the cell to be simply eliminated, revealing a brand new, contaminant-free floor from throughout the substrate that doesn’t require sprucing.

Spalling of ordinary GaAs layers creates comparatively giant sides on the substrate that eat further materials and will require planarization (through sprucing or different strategies) earlier than the substrate might be reused. This newest development makes use of acoustic spalling, or sound waves, to regulate the fracture, suppress the formation of sides, and enhance the flatness of the substrate.

“The floor is much less corrugated,” Schulte stated, “so while you develop a brand new machine on it, it’s doable to attain a excessive effectivity with comparatively minimal, or probably no, floor repreparation.”

Acoustic spalling was developed at Arizona State College; the expertise is being commercialized by an organization in Phoenix referred to as Crystal Sonic Inc. Two of the corporate’s researchers are co-authors on the Joule article. Different co-authors are Steve Johnston, Jacob Boyer, Anica Neumann, William McMahon, Michelle Younger, Emily Warren, and Myles Steiner, all from NREL; and Anna Braun of Colorado Faculty of Mines.

Extra analysis is required to find out what number of instances the substrate might be reused after being subjected to acoustic spalling, which Crystal Sonic calls Sonic Raise-Off. The researchers have been capable of make a cell on a beforehand spalled substrate with an NREL-certified effectivity of 26.9%.

“I don’t suppose there’s any distinction in that efficiency in comparison with what effectivity we may get on a brand-new substrate,” Schulte stated.

The U.S. Division of Vitality Photo voltaic Vitality Applied sciences Workplace funded the analysis.

NREL is the U.S. Division of Vitality’s main nationwide laboratory for renewable power and power effectivity analysis and improvement. NREL is operated for DOE by the Alliance for Sustainable Vitality LLC.

Article from NREL, by Wayne Hicks.


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