George Washington University (GWU) has partnered with Semprius to help bring the next generation of multi-junction photovoltaic cells to light. The university will work to develop PV devices that can convert 50 percent of the sun’s light into electricity as part of Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy’s (ARPA-E’s) MOSAIC program.
Currently the most efficient PV cells were developed by Soitec and the Fraunhofer institute. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) stated that the group produced a four-junction, 46 percent efficient PV device.
The devices that GWU and its partners, Semprius, Veeco and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign are working on would comprise six junctions or layers. In such devices each layer of the device is tuned to absorb a particular part of the sun’s radiation.
“The MOSAIC program places an emphasis on solutions that combine cutting-edge scientific research, pushing the boundaries of what is possible, but which maintain a clear path to low-cost, manufacturable processes and designs. These factors create the potential for a disruptive impact on commercial photovoltaics of the future,” Dr. Lumb said.
ARPA-E is supplying the project with a $900,000 grant to help develop the devices. “This is an exciting opportunity for GW to partner with a leading innovator in solar energy and produce a new concept in solar panel design,” said GWU Research Scientist Matthew Lumb, who is leading the effort at the university.
Since these devices generally use rarer, more expensive materials than silicon solar panels do they’re usually used with lenses that concentrate sunlight on them. For instance, Semprius has commercialized a device that concentrates sunlight more than 1,000 times on its cells called a concentrating photovoltaic device (CPV device). But such CPV systems also have the drawback of needing direct sunlight.
The team lead by Lumb team is looking to create a CPV device that can operate where 40 percent of the sunlight arrives as diffuse light and is aiming for harvest efficiencies of greater than 30 percent over a year. The hope is to make lower-cost CPV technologies that can work in more locations, like Portland, OR, GWU offers as an example.
One of the techniques they’re investigating is transfer-printing, which Semprius has used to create precise, parallel assembly of micro-scale devices with low cost.Tweet