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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/R005303/1
Title: Black Silicon Photovoltaics
Principal Investigator: Wilshaw, Professor P
Other Investigators:
Boden, Dr SA
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Dr T Rahman
Project Partners:
Fraunhofer Institut (Multiple, Grouped) University of New South Wales
Department: Materials
Organisation: University of Oxford
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 February 2018 Ends: 31 January 2021 Value (£): 949,877
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Solar Technology
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Energy
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
06 Jun 2017 Engineering Prioritisation Panel Meeting 6 and 7 June 2017 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Urgent efforts are required to reduce the cost of renewable energy in order to tackle the worst effects of climate change. The fastest growing renewable energy technology is photovoltaics (PV), which will account for 30% of global power generation capacity in the coming decades. Silicon PV, which currently accounts for more than 90% of the market, is a proven technology where significant technological improvements will ensure further price reductions and increased deployment. Improvement in cell power conversion efficiency is a key driving factor in reducing the cost of solar energy, which this proposal aims to achieve by developing industrially-compatible optical enhancement, surface passivation and emitter formation techniques for silicon solar cells.

The methods developed as part of this project will be applied to the leading solar cell technologies based on mono- (c-Si) and multi-crystalline silicon (mc-Si). For c-Si, this is a rear junction (RJ) architecture also known as the interdigitated back contact cell, and for mc-Si, this is a front junction (FJ) architecture. To enhance the RJ cell technology, where the p-n junction is at the back of the cell and unaffected by the front surface texturing, the approach is to use a solution-based texturing technique that leads to optically black silicon surfaces. For the case of the FJ cell architecture, where formation of the p-n junction at the front surface alongside texturing has to be considered, gas-phase processes will be investigated. Upon developing effective antireflective surfaces for RJ and FJ solar cells the challenge becomes transferring the gain in photon capture to improvements in the efficiency of the cell. For this to take place the electrical properties of the surface must be studied, and methods developed to mitigate any electrical degradation due to the texturing processes. This project is uniquely positioned to address jointly the optical and electrical properties of the cells, and by doing so, aims to produce optimally textured surfaces that can be easily integrated into the manufacture of solar cells.

The project teams at Southampton and Oxford will draw on their close collaborations with the world-leading research institutes at Fraunhofer ISE, Germany, and UNSW, Australia. This will enable the demonstration of the proposed texturing technology on state-of-the-art silicon solar cells, as well as providing access to advanced techniques in characterisation and processing. These collaborations will also promote knowledge transfer to the UK research community. A core principle of this proposal is to contribute to improving industrial solar cell production. For this, two strategic industrial collaborations have been established. Firstly Tetreon Technologies, the leading UK manufacturer of industrial tools for solar cell production, will be closely involved in the project, with the aim of subsequently developing industrial equipment and processes for export to the global market. Secondly Trina Solar, one of the world's largest cell manufacturers and the industrial leader in high efficiency cells, will provide insight into the market and industry needs that this project aims to address. They will demonstrate successful processes in an industrial environment from cell to module manufacture. Through these collaborations this project will leverage cutting edge expertise in the complementary areas of surface passivation and light trapping to tackle the challenge of developing photovoltaic technology. The project will deliver substantially improved efficiencies for silicon based solar cells and modules and, through close collaboration with UK and international companies, will allow the research undertaken to be rapidly exploited in the form of new tools and processes for export to the global solar industry. Alongside the expertise within the team, its academic and industrial networks form an ideal basis for the innovative and impactful research programme.
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