Low Cost Solution Processed CIGS Solar Cells

Lead Research Organisation: Loughborough University
Department Name: Wolfson Sch of Mech, Elec & Manufac Eng


The market for photovoltaic (PV) modules has grown at 35 % p.a. compound over the past 15 years and will exceed 50
GW in 2014. The drivers behind this extraordinary growth include the rising cost of fossil fuels, concerns over security of
energy supplies and worries over climate change. Governments agencies world wide, including the DECC in the UK, are
encouraging the deployment of PV through incentives. However as the cost of PV reduces many important regions are now
at "grid parity" which removes the need for subsidies. At this point the market for PV is expected to rocket. This project will
develop a new solution processed thin film photovoltaic (PV) device from a nanoparticle precursor, which offers a cheaper
route to producing PV modules. The aim of the project will be to integrate technologies developed by the project partners,
to improve the efficiency of small area solar cells, then to scale the technology to mini-module dimensions, while
maintaining a focus on reducing the cost of the process. The application of the technology to flexible substrates will also be
assessed. Lower cost processing of modules will develop a lucrative business for CIGS nanoparticle inks and even
greater growth of solar energy deployment.

Planned Impact

Pathways to impact
The market for solar modules has increased by 35% pa compound over the past 15 years. About 90% of solar module
production is currently based on crystalline silicon. However, second generation solar cells based on thin film technology
have an inherent advantage because less material is required for their manufacture, and with increasing efficiency, costs
are reducing rapidly.
High volume manufacturing of thin film PV is recent and the manufacturing processes used are still developing. This
project aims to use a solution based process using CIGS nanoparticles to provide a lower cost route to module production.
Nanoco has already established proof of principle and has achieved an impressive 14% conversion efficiency. The aim of
this project is to push the cell efficiency to >17% and establish process scale up to sub-module dimensions.
The collaborators in this project are the immediate beneficiaries. Nanoco has a strong portfolio of patents to protect its
technology for nanoparticle synthesis and has already established the feasibility of using spray techniques for large area
modules. Nanoco has already engaged with the major manufacturers of thin film CIGS modules and the route to
exploitation is clear once the technical challenges addressed by this proposal are overcome. The project has a range of
wider beneficiaries because lower cost renewable energy has clear environmental benefits including the reduction of
carbon emissions.
CREST is aware of the value of IP and will ensure that protection has been obtained prior to any public disclosure. At that
point, CREST is in an excellent position to disseminate the results of the project. Loughborough University leads the
EPSRC Supergen SuperSolar Hub which now has 8 core members, over 50 Associates and over 400 Network members.
Professor Michael Walls is the Director of the Hub and PI on this project. The Hub has organized 10 events each year
since its inception which provide venues for dissemination and networking in the UK. Walls is also a member of the Solar
Energy Special Interest Group (SESSIG) set up by Innovate UK to encourage industrial development in solar energy. He
is a member of the DECC UK PV strategy group and co-chair of DECC's Task force on PV Innovation. Recently, he
became a Director of the Advisory Group for The Solar Cloth Company Ltd (TSCC) which addresses the market for flexible
modules (CIGS) over car parks and commercial buildings. CREST is also working with M-solv Ltd to develop a 'One Step
Interconnect' (OSI) process using laser ablation and inkjet printing. This process is ideal for CIGS modules and Nanoco
will sub-contract the interconnect to M-solv within this project. A powerful UK supply chain is developing in thin film PV and
this project is crucial to its development.
Members of the CREST team attend the IEEE Specialist Photovoltaics Conference (PVSC) in the United States. This is
arguably the most important PV forum since it attracts the most prominent researchers from both research Institutions and
Industrial R&D organisations. It is the perfect venue for dissemination and often leads to the development of commercial
opportunities. Walls is a member of the International Advisory Board for the IEEE PVSC.
CREST has established important relationships with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory NREL in the United States
. NREL have connections with PV module manufacturers worldwide. The link with NREL will be useful to Nanoco both
technically and commercially. The commercial exploitation of the project outcomes will be the responsibility of Nanoco
Technologies Ltd. Nanoco will use a licensing business model targeting chemical companies for their nanoparticle
synthesis technology and CIGS module manufacturers for the supply of materials. CREST will assist this activity through its
worldwide network of contacts in the solar module industry.


10 25 50
Description TEM cross-sections of the nanoparticle processed devices have revealed an un-crystallised layer close to the junction. Removal of this layer will lead to higher efficiency.

We are exploring the benefits of using RTP assisted selenization
Exploitation Route Nanoco Technologies plc has decided to focus on its core technology of quantum dots for OLED displays. They are making efforts to find licensees for their patented solar technology..
Sectors Energy

Description Nanoco Technologies plc have made good progress improving the efficiency and scale up of their solution approach to the deposition of CIGS modules using nanoparticles.
First Year Of Impact 2015
Sector Energy
Impact Types Economic

Description Co-Chair of the DECC UK PV Innovation Task Force
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a advisory committee
Impact Assisting Government to identify priorities for Innovation in PV such as Building Integrated PV. Advice included attending meetings, writing reports and making presentations.
Description Member of the Energy committee of the Institute of Physics
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a advisory committee
Impact The Energy committee of the institute of Physics organises events to disseminate latest energy related research.
Description A National Thin-Film Cluster Facility for Advanced Functional Materials
Amount £460,998 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/M022900/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 08/2015 
End 08/2020
Description Photovoltaic Technology based on earth abundant materials-PVTEAM
Amount £2,012,697 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/L017792/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2014 
End 02/2018
Description Flexible Solar Photovoltaics For Commercial Roof Tops And Rural Communities In Malaysia 
Organisation National Tenaga University
Country Malaysia 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Development of Solution processed CIGS PV on lightweight and flexible substrates
Collaborator Contribution Performance assessment in tropical climate conditions in Malaysia
Impact Joint proposal to Newton Fund
Start Year 2015
Description Low cost solution processed solar cells using CIGS nanoparticles 
Organisation Nanoco
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Assessment of performance of thin film CIGS PV devices. Process development on rigid and flexible substrates. HRTEM characterisation.
Collaborator Contribution Fabrication of CIGS PV devices using nanoparticles
Impact Joint paper at the 2016 IEEE PVSC conference
Start Year 2015
Description Printed solar modules for large area roof applications 
Organisation MARA University of Technology
Country Malaysia 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Training of staff/students from Malaysia. Research on solution based deposition of CIGS PV devices
Collaborator Contribution Development of carbon nanotubes
Impact Joint application to Innovate UK/MIGHT for a research proposal on lightweight modules for off grid and deployment on non-load bearing roofs with The Solar Cloth Company and Coara.
Start Year 2015
Description SOLplus - Improved Energy Efficiency of Solar PV Systems via Low Surface Energy Coatings 
Organisation Opus Technologies Ltd
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Assessment of performance and durability of hydrophobic coatings for PV modules.
Collaborator Contribution Formulation of silica based hydrophobic coatings. Other partners are The Solar Cloth Company, Cornelius Specialities and TWI
Impact Product close to commercialisation
Start Year 2015
Description Advances in Photovoltaics 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Meeting on 'Advances in Photovoltaics' held at the Institute of Physics. SuperSolar event with 70 attendees. International invited speakers.
Organiser and Chairman
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015