Low-cost Extremely Thinlayer Absorber (ETA) Solar Cell: A Novel approach to make the conformal ETA Layers

Lead Research Organisation: Loughborough University
Department Name: Chemistry


The Extremely Thin Absorber-layer (ETA) solar cell is a relatively new PV configuration. In materials viewpoint, there are a large number of semiconductor materials available that are suitable to employ in ETA cell configuration. Most of them are yet to be tested in ETA cell. The first part of the project will be aimed at screening semiconductor material combinations to find out novel material combinations (high band gap n-type semiconductor/low band gap light absorbing semiconductor/high band gap p-type semiconductor) for ETA cells. This will be done by aligning the band gap and band edges of semiconductors. The next part of the project is the construction of the integrated ALD and CVD deposition system. The main advantage of constructing this deposition system is that it will give us the capability of depositing conformal layers of light absorbing low band gap semiconductor materials on high aspect ratio of microstructures. The system will also be capable of deposition of pin-hole free compact layers and deposition of p-type high band gap semiconductors on high aspect ratio microstructures. Initially, a compact high band gap metal oxide semiconductor thin film will be deposited on FTO substrates using spray pyrolysis (to be used as a blocking layer). For the comparison the integrated deposition system will also be employed to make compact blocking layers. Then a microstructured porous film of the same high band gap semiconductor will be deposited on the compact layer. For this, a suitable deposition method will be selected from a range of methods (i.e. screen printing of sol-gel colloid, doctor-blading of sol-gel colloid, template assisted electrodeposition, spray pyrolysis). Then a conformal layer of light absorbing semiconductor material (i.e. CuInS2, Bi2S3, Cu2S, In2S3) will be deposited by using the integrated ALD and CVD deposition system. A high band gap p-type semiconductor (i.e. CuI, CuCNS, CuAlO2) will be deposited on the conformal layer by a suitable method (i.e. spray pyrolysis, dip coating, electrodeposition, integrated ALD/CVD method, or a combination of these methods). This will follow the deposition of a Au back contact. The completed cells will be characterised by a range of techniques (i.e. photocurrent spectroscopy, steady-state current-voltage plots, intensity modulated photocurrent spectroscopy and charge extraction technique) to study the limiting factors of cells. The resulting information will be fed into cell fabrication in order to improve light harvesting efficiency, photovoltage, and overall conversion efficiency. The project will be carried out by a postdoctoral research assistant who has the necessary skills over a period of three years. He will be supported by a dedicated PhD student (fully-funded by the Faculty of Science, Loughborough University) throughout the project. Regular meetings will be held with our industrial partners (Bac2 Ltd and PolySolar Ltd). The keen interest of industrial partners and their regular input is a key advantage for the project. Based on this work, new ideas, collaborations, and interdisciplinary projects will emerge and further funding will be applied for. In overall, the project will bring new capabilities to UK next generation solar cell research.


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Cummings CY (2012) Kinetics and mechanism of light-driven oxygen evolution at thin film a-Fe2O3 electrodes. in Chemical communications (Cambridge, England)

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Dharmadasa R (2010) ZnO-SnO2 composite anodes in extremely thin absorber layer (ETA) solar cells in Journal of Electroanalytical Chemistry

Description New solar cell confugarations, fabrication methods and new seconductor materials were the key outputs.
Exploitation Route As already stated, a large number of UK industries are helped by my group todate. KNowledge generated in this award set the science for this much wider engagement.
Sectors Education,Energy,Environment

Description The high citations received todate for out publicatiosn show the scientific impact. Outputs (of this award) has also resulted in a number of new industrial collaborations. They are significantly benefitting today.
First Year Of Impact 2011
Sector Education,Energy,Environment
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Economic,Policy & public services

Description Johnson Matthey Plc sponsored studentship support scheme
Amount £26,500 (GBP)
Organisation Johnson Matthey 
Sector Private
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2011 
End 06/2014
Description PMI 2 Connect - Research Co-operation Award Pakistan
Amount £39,000 (GBP)
Funding ID RCPK-65 
Organisation British Council 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 07/2008 
End 06/2011
Description UK/Japan Collaboration
Amount £1,000 (GBP)
Organisation The Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 06/2008 
End 06/2010
Description Advanced characterisation of ETA solar cells 
Organisation University of Bath
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We have prepared semiconductor electrodes and ETA cells for advanced characterisation
Collaborator Contribution Collaborators helped us to characterise the individual electrodes and cells
Impact Please see under the publication list
Description New Materials synthesis 
Organisation University of Exeter
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution My team has studied the materials provided by the collaborators in electrochemical devices
Collaborator Contribution Collaborator provided new materials
Impact All joint research outputs have already entered in the relevant section
Start Year 2007
Description New Semiconductor Material Synthesis, Electrode Preparation and Device Fabrication 
Organisation University of Malaya
Country Malaysia 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution My team investigated/studied new semiconductor material electrodes received through this collaboration
Collaborator Contribution Collaborators synthesised a large number of new semiconductor materials and prepared photoelectrodes using them.
Impact This is multi-disciplinary collaboration and resulted a large number of joint research publications and new knowledge in the area of 'solar energy harvesting'. All joint research publications have added to the relevant section of this entry.
Start Year 2008
Description Solar Water Splitting 
Organisation University of Cambridge
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution WE have characterised the photoelectrochemical properties of electrodes provided by collaborator.
Collaborator Contribution New photoelectrodes were received from the collaborator
Impact All research outputs have listed in the relevant section.
Start Year 2008