All Inorganic Bulk Heterojunction Solar Cell Devices

Lead Research Organisation: University of Ulster
Department Name: Nanotechnology and Adv Materials Inst

Abstract

Photovoltaic technology is critical to securing the future energy supply of UK and the exploration and development of new technologies that may significantly enhance efficiencies would be a major breakthrough for photovoltaics, for national energy strategy and provide a head-start for new UK industry.
The deployment of next generation, low-cost and high-efficiency solar cells is a multifaceted challenge that requires a multidisciplinary effort and includes fundamental physics, material synthesis/processing, process development/optimization and full device fabrication and characterization. Boosting efficiency and lowering costs can only be achieved with a full-span vision of all device-related aspects. Considerations on materials costs, availability and environmental impact are also mandatory. Current solar cell technologies all rely on fundamental physical principles that are intrinsically limiting device efficiency. In order to overcome this theoretical limit new approaches are required that exploit different physical mechanisms.
The proposed project aims to bring together advanced and novel materials with unique properties that can overcome theoretical limits. Specifically silicon-based quantum confinement and novel tuned-bandgap metal oxide semiconductors with high hole conductivity will be used to deliver the first all-inorganic bulk-heterojunction photovoltaic device capable of exploiting carrier multiplication and offering the potential of efficiencies beyond the theoretical limit of current technologies. Utilising low cost, non-degradable, non-toxic, abundant and environmentally-friendly materials as well as low cost and scalable fabrication strategies, the aim is to open up novel and transformative approaches based on nanotechnology. The proposed devices will represent at the end of the project a serious contender for future high efficiency low-cost photovoltaics with limited environmental footprint and they will open up a new era for low-cost solar energy harvesting. The proposal will bring novel elements from chemistry, nanotechnology, materials and plasmas together with device engineering, and will access expertise from world-leading groups in materials and photovoltaics.

Planned Impact

Knowledge Impact: The PI and Co-Is have an established network of academic beneficiaries which will warrant for knowledge exchange through collaborations and in a range of disciplines beyond photovoltaics (PVs) that include plasma science, materials science and engineering, photonics and biomedical engineering. Collaborations with project partners are integral components of this proposal and will directly contribute to advance our understanding of inorganic bulk heterojunction devices. In order to reach out to a wider audience of academic beneficiaries, dissemination plans are laid out for publications and participation to conferences.
Economic Impact: The economic impact of the proposed research is achieved following three different pathways towards the energy sector, plasma technologies and skills development. Sales of PV systems in the past decades have achieved a dramatic growth despite the limited degree of technological improvement. With recent increased R&D investments, this growth can be further improved with unprecedented economic impact. Nonetheless R&D must look for innovative ideas that can exploit new physical mechanisms capable of a drastic efficiency increase and especially a reduction of the associated costs. The proposed research programme is a clear step in this direction with a consequent global impact where the UK can play a considerable role. In fact, the success of this research project can lead to a solar cell technology that will be capable of attracting inward investment towards UK or to the creation of new companies. At the appropriate time, a business case will be made to warrant a successful transition from a research-based technology to an industrial reality. Technological plasmas are key enablers in a very wide range of fields that are making an indispensable contribution to the economy. The development of reliable atmospheric-pressure plasma technologies in UK will represent an important achievement with the potential of considerable wealth creation and inward investment. Finally, trained PhD students and postdoctoral researchers will become skilled experts in advanced PVs and will be in the ideal position to start-up new companies attracting inward investment.
Society: The global energy challenge relies in technological progress to improve quality of life and this is addressed by this proposal either directly or through its impacts and with the required channels to advance from science to societal benefits. Proposed PV devices offer lower cost and higher efficiency solar conversion through a sustainable and environmentally friendly approach and hence are of considerable interest to industry where this is a huge potential market. If technology is implemented there are major potential benefits for society with improved energy security and reduced global CO2 emissions. Globally low cost, efficient photovoltaics could provide as much as 5-10% of electricity production, thus if the proposed concept was to succeed and deliver its maximum potential, it would deliver benefits to industry and society. The collaborative work with the project partners will greatly contribute to international development bringing additional societal impact.
People: The research activities planned within and following this EPSRC-funded project promote collaborations with overseas institutions contributing to the education of a UK-based globally engaged scientific and engineering workforce capable of performing in an international environment for advanced technologies. The educational impact will originate also from the involvement of undergraduate and master students. The PI/Co-Is current engagements with their respective departments will lead to educate students in nanotechnology and solar cells so that future workforce generations can be prepared. Exchanges of students/researchers with project partners are planned and corresponding resources have been included in the budget.

Publications

10 25 50

 
Description - we have demonstrated the possibility of producing nanoparticles using low-cost and simple processes
- we are producing important information on new materials that can be used for solar cells with very high inefficiencies
- we have developed a number of highly innovative and low-cost fabrication processes for next generation solar cells
- we have used and tested a number of different materials that are new in the field of photovoltaics, which have shown highly promising characteristics
Exploitation Route - Processes developed here can be implemented for the fabrication of a range of other materials and devices in a wide range of applications
- Several of the processes can be taken forward for commercialization
- Some of the materials we have studied can be considered for many other applications
- Device architectures can be taken forward for commercialization, in particular the one that has been patented
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Agriculture, Food and Drink,Electronics,Energy,Healthcare,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology

 
Description - two students were awarded their PhD; their involvement in the project has provided an excellent research framework contributing to form highly skilled workforce to develop future energy generation technologies - the PDRA hired in the project was able to greatly enhance his CV and he is now in the position to seek for an academic/research position - a patent has been submitted and granted, this is now the basis for a technology transfer endevour, which is expected to bring economic impact
First Year Of Impact 2016
Sector Energy,Environment
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Economic

 
Description IOP Ireland committee membership
Geographic Reach Europe 
Policy Influence Type Membership of a guideline committee
 
Description 2015 PhD Annual Competition
Amount £65,000 (GBP)
Organisation Ulster University 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2015 
End 09/2018
 
Description DEL PhD studentship entry 2013
Amount £65,000 (GBP)
Organisation Government of Northern Ireland 
Department Department for Employment and Learning Northern Ireland (DELNI)
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2013 
End 09/2016
 
Description DEL PhD studentship entry 2013
Amount £65,000 (GBP)
Organisation Government of Northern Ireland 
Department Department for Employment and Learning Northern Ireland (DELNI)
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2013 
End 10/2016
 
Description Emergent Nanomaterials (Critical Mass Proposal)
Amount £491,525 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/R023638/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 06/2018 
End 05/2022
 
Description General Award
Amount £6,167,609 (GBP)
Funding ID RD0714186 
Organisation Invest Northern Ireland 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2016 
End 12/2020
 
Description Manufacturing Advanced Functional Materials
Amount £2,811,853 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/M015211/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 05/2015 
End 05/2020
 
Description PhD Grant Support (2015)
Amount £65,000 (GBP)
Organisation Ulster University 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 12/2015 
End 11/2018
 
Description PhD Studentship 2014 - 2017
Amount £65,000 (GBP)
Organisation Government of Northern Ireland 
Department Department for Employment and Learning Northern Ireland (DELNI)
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2014 
End 09/2017
 
Description Proof of Concept
Amount £105,891 (GBP)
Funding ID PoC-608 
Organisation Invest Northern Ireland 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2016 
End 02/2018
 
Description Research Challenge Fund
Amount £25,000 (GBP)
Organisation Ulster University 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2017 
End 02/2018
 
Description Strategic Equipment
Amount £1,094,994 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/R008841/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2018 
End 12/2020
 
Description SuperSolar Conference Fund
Amount £496 (GBP)
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Department SuperSolar Hub
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2014 
End 05/2014
 
Description SuperSolar Secondment
Amount £2,124 (GBP)
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Department SuperSolar Hub
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2014 
End 12/2014
 
Description SuperSolar Secondment
Amount £2,273 (GBP)
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Department SuperSolar Hub
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 05/2014 
End 07/2014
 
Description SuperSolar Secondment
Amount £2,500 (GBP)
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Department SuperSolar Hub
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2013 
End 10/2013
 
Description Supergen Solar Challenge
Amount £419,837 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/M024938/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 07/2015 
End 07/2018
 
Description VCRS PhD studentship entry 2014
Amount £65,000 (GBP)
Organisation Ulster University 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2014 
End 09/2017
 
Title APP for PV 
Description Developed and demonstrated atmospheric pressure plasma processes for the fabrication of solar cells. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2015 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact A range of publication and conference contributions. 
 
Title Silicon-based nanoparticles by atmospheric pressure plasmas 
Description A scalable and reliable method to synthesize silicon-based nanoparticles by atmospheric pressure plasmas has been developed. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact The method will allow for easy and low cost fabrication of silicon-based nanoparticles that can be directly integrated in device fabrication processes. 
 
Description AIST 
Organisation National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology
Country Japan 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Develop nanomaterials synthesis/processing.
Collaborator Contribution Develop integration of nanomaterials in solar cell devices.
Impact A range of publications, conference participation, student and researchers training and in general progress to the development of third generation solar cells.
Start Year 2006
 
Description Bochum 
Organisation Ruhr University Bochum
Country Germany 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Expertise/training of student in nanomaterial synthesis.
Collaborator Contribution Expertise/training of students in plasma system development and diagnostics.
Impact A range of publication and conference contribution and general progress in plasma technology and for nanomaterial synthesis.
Start Year 2013
 
Description Brunel-Harjit 
Organisation Brunel University London
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We have produced expertise and time/resources to produce a publication.
Collaborator Contribution The collaborators contributed with their expertise and time to produce new results for a publications.
Impact Rose BAJ, Singh H, Verma N, Tassou S, Suresh S, Anantharaman N, Mariotti D, Maguire P "Investigations into nanofluids as direct solar radiation collectors" Solar Energy 147 (2017) 426
Start Year 2016
 
Description COST Action TD1208 
Organisation University of Bologna
Country Italy 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Within the COST-Action TD1208 we participated to workshop and lead one of the Workgroup. We have also hosted 3 researchers from partners in the network.
Collaborator Contribution Students/researchers from the network visited us to carry out experiments and also continued with other experiments in their own institution.
Impact Bruggeman P J, Mariotti D et al. "Plasma-liquid interactions: a review and roadmap" Plasma Sources Science and Technology 25 (2016) 053002 - Invited Topical Roadmap; Tarasenka N, Butsen A, Pankov V, Velusamy T, Mariotti D, Tarasenko N "Laser assisted preparation of doped ZnO nanocrystals" Nano-Structures & Nano-Objects 12 (2017) 210; Velusamy T, Liguori A, Macias-Montero M, Padmanaban DB, Carolan D, Gherardi M, Colombo V, Maguire P, Švrcek V, Mariotti D "Ultra-small CuO nanoparticles with tailored energy-band diagram synthesized by a hybrid plasma-liquid process" Plasma Processes & Polymers 14 (2017) 1600224; Tarasenka N, Stupak A, Tarasenko N, Chakrabarti S, Mariotti D "Structure and optical properties of carbon nanoparticles generated by laser treatment of graphite in liquid" ChemPhysChem 18 (2017) 1074
Start Year 2013
 
Description CWRU 
Organisation Case Western Reserve University
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Development of scalable atmospheric plasma systems.
Collaborator Contribution Testing of plasma systems for nanoparticle synthesis.
Impact A range of publications and conference presentation and in general progress in plasma nanomaterial synthesis.
Start Year 2010
 
Description JLI 
Organisation Jean Lamour Institute
Country France 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Expertise in quantum dot synthesis.
Collaborator Contribution Expertise in oxide and plasma-liquid synthesis.
Impact A range of publications and conference presentation and in general progress in plasma nanomaterial synthesis.
Start Year 2013
 
Description Queen's University Belfast 
Organisation Queen's University Belfast
Department School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We have collaborated with exchange of staff/students and shared expertise and facilities
Collaborator Contribution We have collaborated with exchange of staff/students and shared expertise and facilities
Impact Zhang R-C, Sun D, Zhang R, Lin W-F, Macias-Montero M, Patel J, Askari S, McDonald C, Mariotti D, Maguire P "Gold nanoparticle-polymer nanocomposites synthesized by room temperature atmospheric pressure plasma and their potential for fuel cell electrocatalytic Application" Scientific Reports 7 (2017) 46682
Start Year 2015
 
Title Photovoltaic device 
Description A new type of photovoltaic device has been proposed. 
IP Reference GBA201513366 
Protection Patent application published
Year Protection Granted
Licensed No
Impact Funding received to develop further and commercialize the idea.
 
Description 20th International School Master Class on Low-Temperature Plasma Physics 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Presentation (60 min + 15) to postgraduate students at the annual international Low Temperature Plasma Physics School in Bad Honnef, Germany. The school is residential and detailed discussions with students and groups are carried out during the residential stay. The Master Class series outlines new research directions based on the techncial aspects of the curriculum.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.plasma-school.org/
 
Description PV in EEE107 2014 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact About 50 students participated in a lab-based experience in photovoltaics with mixed teaching approaches to verify the impact of the different methodologies.

A direct impact was evaluated with questionnaires to assess the progress of the students; future impact will be assessed in the years to come.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014