New know-how might see photo voltaic panels built-in into home windows and…

A team of researchers, including renewable energy experts from Northumbria University, has received significant funding to revolutionize the way photovoltaic devices are made and used to generate solar energy.

Together with colleagues from the Universities of Bristol and Loughborough, scientists from Northumbria want to develop a new technology with which solar panels can be integrated into windows, cladding and roofs so that urban areas can generate their own clean and renewable energy.

Their project, Solution Processed Inorganic Thin Film Photovoltaic Devices (SolPV), was awarded £ 1.93 million by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), part of UKRI’s Research and Innovation (UKRI).

In contrast to established solar technologies, the SoIPV project focuses on the development of inorganic semiconductor junctions that emit less carbon during manufacture. It is crucial that they can also be flexible, semi-transparent and adapted to a wide variety of systems and infrastructures so that they can be more easily integrated into buildings.

The Northumbria University team is led by Dr. Devendra Tiwari, who is assisted by Professors Guillaume Zoppi and Neil Beattie. They were awarded over £ 600,000 for their participation in the research project.

Dr. Tiwari said, “For me the highlight and challenge of the proposal is right there in the project title – ‘solution processing’. Solution processing is much less capital intensive and is much better suited to integrating solar cells into scaffolding and windows than current thin film solar cell manufacturing technology.

“It therefore offers the possibility of producing inexpensive integrated PV systems. The challenge is to demonstrate marketable performance and process scalability, and to solve problems from atomistic to device level. Northumbria brings this versatility and the know-how on several levels to realize this transition from laboratory to factory to the team. “

There are currently only two types of solar cell technologies on the market – one based on silicon and two others based on thin-film solar cell technology (TFSC) based on inorganic compound semiconductors.

Due to its slim architecture and manufacturing at low temperatures, TFSC can be more easily coupled with building materials made of glass and plastic composites. The solution processing used in the project also allows for easier fabrication on curved surfaces.

The SolPV project aims to provide an alternative to an existing TFSC technology based on copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS). The team will develop a next generation alternative – copper-zinc-tin-sulfo-selenide (CZTS).

Northumbria University’s mission will be to develop scalable, solution-processing and prototype high-performance solar cells made from copper, zinc, and tin, all of which are abundant and inexpensive. They will replace the indium and gallium used in current PV technology, which are rare and expensive.

The team will also develop new methods of manufacturing solar cells that will allow them to be more easily integrated into windows, buildings, automobiles, and aircraft without compromising primary functionality – thus promoting all-round sustainable electrification.

This innovation will also reduce the need to use rural, arable land for solar panel farms, as well as additional infrastructure for moving electricity from remote locations to cities.

The award of funding for the SolPV project is another example of Northumbria University’s long and successful track record in solar cell and energy research.

In 2019, Northumbria, in partnership with the Universities of Newcastle and Durham, established the EPSRC Center for Postgraduate Education in Northeastern Renewable Energy Universities with the aim of training 65 PhD students over a five-year period.

The center, known as ReNU, received £ 5.5 million funding from the Research Council for Engineering and Physical Sciences, with contributions from industrial partners bringing the total project value to approximately £ 11 million.

Northumbria University recently founded the Energy Futures group, which brings together researchers from diverse disciplines with a central vision to achieve zero net carbon emissions.

Video Title: SnS domains can be viewed as the dots that light up faster in the attached video. This image was taken with the NanoESCA facility at the University of Bristol.

SoIPV Nanoesca_CZTS from Northumbria University on Vimeo.

Follow the SoIPV project on Twitter and Facebook.

Northumbria University team:

Principal Investigator – Dr. Devendra Tiwari

(Contact: [email protected] / Twitter @defect_tolerant)

Co-Investigators – Prof. Guillaume Zoppi and Prof. Neil Beattie

Bristol University team (lead):

Principal Researcher – Prof. David Fermin

Co-Investigators – Prof. Neil Fox and Prof. David Cherns

Loughborough University team:

Principal Investigator – Dr. Jake Bowers

Co-investigator – Prof. Mike Walls

Industry partner:

The center for process innovation catapult

BAE Systems – air

Johnson Matthey

MSolv Ltd.

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