Lightweight solar for the developing world

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Vladimir Bulović

Research Mentor

Selma Duhovic

The recent rise in use of solar systems and micro-grids in India illustrates the value of on-site solar generation for satisfying basic needs. Cost, however, is the largest obstacle to the adoption of solar power for both grid-connected and off-grid applications. To successfully deliver solar power to rural communities, manufacturing and deployment costs of any novel photovoltaic (PV) technology must be less than that of current silicon-based technologies.

Thin-film solar cells are promising candidates. From organometallic perovskites to molecular organic materials and colloidal quantum dots (QDs), emerging nanomaterials are structurally complex but simple to process and inexpensive. Low-temperature processing enables the manufacturing of light, flexible cells with high power-to-weight ratios (>100 W/kg) that are easy to transport, store, and install. Despite their relatively lower power-conversion efficiencies today, in the long term, these technologies could reach PV module and system cost floors unachievable with crystalline silicon.

This project aims to develop large-area, lightweight, flexible, and portable photovoltaic modules based on emerging thin-film technologies, as well as a low-cost processing methods. Goals for the manufacturing process include high throughput, low temperature and energy use, compatibility with flexible substrates, high materials utilization, and tolerance to environmental factors. Ultimately, we expect to deliver a fully-integrated product that meets the rigorous needs of rural India, as well as the manufacturing tools for pilot-scale testing.

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POSTER: Large Area Spray Coated TCs for Solar Panels