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Nanostructured Photovoltaics:

Atomic Layer Deposition Thin Film Technology Enables Cost Effective Solar Cells

Argonne National Laboratory

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	Figure 1. Schematic illustration of an Argonne nanostructured photovoltaic device.</p>

Figure 1. Schematic illustration of an Argonne nanostructured photovoltaic device.

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	Figure 2. ALD transparent conducting oxide coating on large-area substrate for photovoltaic devices.</p>

Figure 2. ALD transparent conducting oxide coating on large-area substrate for photovoltaic devices.

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	Figure 3. Large-area coating system at Argonne for scale-up of nanostructured PV fabrication.</p>

Figure 3. Large-area coating system at Argonne for scale-up of nanostructured PV fabrication.

Technology Marketing Summary

Argonne National Laboratory and partner Northwestern University have invented a nanostructured photovoltaic device that allows dramatic cost savings of up to 70% compared to crystalline silicon solar cells.  Photovoltaic manufacturing is an emerging industry that promises a carbon-free, nearly limitless source of energy for our nation.  However, the high-temperature manufacturing of conventional silicon-based photovoltaics is extremely energy-intensive.  The nanostructured photovoltaics developed at Argonne exploit a novel design to enhance efficiency and utilize atomic layer deposition (ALD) technology for low cost, low temperature manufacturing. Efforts are underway at Argonne to improve the efficiency, scale up the manufacturing, and license this technology for commercialization.

Description

By far, the sun is the most promising source of abundant, clean, renewable power for our nation’s future energy needs.  Although the demand for solar cells is rising, radical changes in solar cell design and manufacturing methods are required to promote the widespread adoption of photovoltaics as a primary source of electrical power.  Over 90% of the solar cells in use today are manufactured from crystalline silicon using an expensive, energy-intensive process performed at high temperatures.  In contrast, Argonne’s nanostructured solar cells, an improved version of the dye-sensitized solar cell (DSSC), are fabricated using cheap, low-energy processes performed at low temperatures.  The Argonne nanostructured devices are fabricated by depositing a series of thin, conformal layers over aerogel scaffolds using atomic layer deposition (ALD), a technology commercialized by the microelectronics industry.  Using ALD, the transparent conducting oxide (TCO) layer can be located within 10 nanometers of the photoactive titanium dioxide (TiO2) layer to dramatically enhance the charge transport in these devices (Figure 1).  Consequently, high efficiencies can be obtained using low cost manufacturing methods.  Efforts are currently underway to scale-up and commercialize this technology (Figures 2 and 3).

Benefits
  • Provides abundant, renewable, carbon-free energy
  • Reduces manufacturing costs and greenhouse gas emissions by >70%
  • Utilizes scalable, established nanomanufacturing methods
Technology Status
Development StageAvailabilityPublishedLast Updated
Prototype - Prototype devices fabricated and tested. Scale-up and optimization in progress.Available - This technology is available for license. Please contact Argonne for licensing information.04/05/201104/05/2011

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To: Elizabeth Jordan<partners@anl.gov>