Ultrafast laser to make solar cells more affordable, efficient

Last Updated: Wed, Mar 09, 2011 10:10 hrs

Researchers at Purdue University's Center are developing a technology that employs ultrafast pulsing laser to help make solar cells more affordable and efficient.

The technology will help experts overcome two main issues: the need to reduce manufacturing costs and increase the efficiency of converting sunlight into an electric current, said Yung Shin.

The cells use tiny "microchannels" needed to interconnect a series of solar panels into an array capable of generating useable amounts of power, he said.

Conventional "scribing" methods, which create the channels mechanically with a stylus, are slow and expensive and produce imperfect channels, impeding solar cells' performance.

"Production costs of solar cells have been greatly reduced by making them out of thin films instead of wafers, but it is difficult to create high-quality microchannels in these thin films," Shin said.

"The mechanical scribing methods in commercial use do not create high-quality, well-defined channels. Although laser scribing has been studied extensively, until now we haven't been able to precisely control lasers to accurately create the microchannels to the exacting specifications required."

"The efficiency of solar cells depends largely on how accurate your scribing of microchannels is," Shin said. "If they are made as accurately as possibly, efficiency goes up."

Research results have shown that the fast-pulsing laser creates very clean microchannels on the surface of each layer, at a very high speed that's not possible with a mechanical scribe.

The researchers plan to establish the scientific basis for the laser-ablation technique by the end of the three-year period.

The study was published in Proceedings of the 2011 NSF Engineering Research and Innovation Conference in January. (ANI)



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