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Batch and Continuous Methods for Evaluating the Physical and Thermal Properties of Films

National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Oak Ridge National Laboratory

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Technology Marketing Summary

Thin films and membranes are used in a number of commercial applications, including energy products (e.g. photovoltaics, batteries, and fuel cells) and separation processes (e.g. pervaporation, reverse osmosis, dialysis, etc.). According to the 2016 BCC report titled “Global Markets, Technologies and Materials for Thin and Ultrathin Films”, the market for thin films is expected to rise from the 2015 global demand of US $9.8 billion at an annual rate of 3%. In order to meet this demand, thin film manufacturing processes need to be effective at large-scale and must consistently meet quality standards to ensure high-quality and high-performance.

To enable high-throughput manufacturing while still maintaining high-quality thin films, quality control measures that limit internal or surface defects are essential. Quality of film is dependent on both the interrelated physical properties (e.g. density, porosity, heat capacity, etc.) and the quality of materials used in construction. While there have been in-line methods developed to detect, identify, and quantify issues with quality, many of these methods remain unreliable, difficult to employ, and costly. Therefore, there is a need for fast, reliable, non-destructive, and cost-effective, in-line evaluation of thin films and membranes.


Scientists at NREL and ORNL have developed a method of continuous monitoring of films, membranes, or electrodes produced in large-scale manufacturing lines. These methods involve transferring heat to a film, measuring its thermal response, and correlating the response to a physical property or characteristic of the film. Monitoring films, membranes, and electrodes through these cost-effective thermal methods or systems is highly efficient, easy to implement, and allows for the detection of small changes in porosity, or other properties of the film.

  • Cost-effective
  • Non-invasive
  • Fast
  • Reliable
  • Easy to implement
  • Detects small changes in porosity
Applications and Industries
  • Thin film manufacturing
  • Fuel Cells
  • Energy Storage
  • Photovoltaic Devices
  • Semiconductor Wafers
  • Proton Exchange Membranes
  • Films and Coatings
  • Automotive
  • Portable Power
  • Monitoring Techniques
  • Quality Control
More Information

PCT Application:

Batch and Continuous Methods for Evaluating the Physical and Thermal Properties of Films

PCT Publication Number: WO/2016/142864 

PCT Application Number: PCT/IB2016/051314

Technology Status
Technology IDDevelopment StageAvailabilityPublishedLast Updated
ROIs 14-68Development - This technology is Laboratory System DevelopedAvailable09/12/201609/12/2016

Contact NREL About This Technology

To: Erin Beaumont<>