Creating electricity by reducing cost, Payback time and Carbon footprint - An exploitation of a novel method into manufacturing c-Si PV solar Cells

Lead Research Organisation: De Montfort University
Department Name: Engineering

Abstract

This project will develop and demonstrate a new method of making polycrystalline silicon (poly-Si) deposited on plastic and
glass subsrates for photovoltaic (PV) solar cell application. Poly-Si is a versatile material that is used extensively for energy
generation in solar panels. Current methods for producing poly-Si involve high temperatures above 600 degrees
centigrade, so it is usually deposited on glass or metal substrates and involves energy expensive costs (57 %) for the
extraction, purification of polysilcon for PV. This new method, using plasma enhanced chemical vapour deposition, will
carry out at temperatures below 350 degrees, which is within the range of some thermoplastic polymers. The process has
already been demonstrated at laboratory scale within the Emerging Technology Research Centre at De Montfort University
and a patent application has been granted . Moreover, it will reduce significantly costs and energy usage during
manufacture of devices, and precursor to the UK PV manufacturing industires. This project will fully optimise the process
granular crystal size of silicon with consistent quality for Photovaoltaic solar cell application.

Planned Impact

In lieu of these anticipated economies of scale, one of the major drivers for PV technologies achieving these sustainability
benefits is the need to drastically reduce electricity generation costs. Therefore, issues such as energy requirement,
material usage and manufacturing time are fundamental to achieving these reductions. This project would result in at least
a 50% reduction in energy usage during poly-Si growth. There would be an even greater reduction in manufacturing time
as the film would not require extended annealing at high temperatures (usually a number of hours), and the required
thickness could be achieved in a relatively shorter time; which would be the case for all the silicon layers forming each cell
structure. There is the additional benefit that the total material requirements for this process are much lower than those of
c-Si cells. All of these factors address the touchstone issues for the viability of widespread PV deployment. And the
methodologies of the process itself would ensure rapid integration into present manufacturing procedures.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Title iMatSci 
Description Novel Fabrication process used in this research work that is based on DMU patent process is explained to public or research community with the step by step guide highlighted in a movie along with short video clips. Along with the movie that was designed, few demonstration kits were made available showing all the steps involved in depositing silicon nanostructures. A proof of concept lab scale working solar cell was made available. 
Type Of Art Film/Video/Animation 
Year Produced 2016 
Impact First proof of demonstration of a practical application of silicon nanostructures grown by the process, developed in the project, is shown for photovoltaic solar cell. 
 
Description The most important innovation from this feasibility project was a set of working solar cells based on the new technology. These cells had, in the view of the authors, an acceptable efficiency for such an early stage PV technology achieving 6-8% on glass substrates and 1.2% on plastic substrates. The structure of the PV, being based on a silicon nanowire structure, has generated significant interest from, primarily academic, but commercial organisations too. The core technology to be developed in the RA project is a new form of solar cell using Si nanowires (SiNWs). The novelty being the method in which these Si nanowires are grown at low temperature - thereby enabling growth at lower cost on a wider range of substrates
Exploitation Route Our plans though - specifically PEL and DMU - are focussed on gaining additional funding to be able to answer the remaining technical questions and taking ideas develop during the project forward.
Sectors Chemicals,Electronics,Energy,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology

 
Description Impact on promoting education for aspiring students from developing countries
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
Impact Several students around the globe (Africa, India and Saudi Arabia) are provided an opportunity to join and carry out research study as part of PhD degree at De Montfort University. This not only promotes education for students from developing countries where facilities are limited but also exposing them to advanced UK based education system. This significantly demonstrates that diversity promoted in the UK. This research has provided an opportunity to several students to carry out dissertation as part of their MSc degree programme which has given exposure to research facilities and research embedded teaching. We have seen providing such opportunity to students has impacted them to further progress their studies as part of PhD program. In few occasions, we have seen students joining research-oriented companies.
 
Title Growth of Silicon nanostructures on flexible transparent plastic substrates 
Description The novel growth process is established with certain pre-treatment processes to grow/deposit silicon nanostructures on a plastic substrate that adhere strongly to the substrate when it is held flat, bent and stretched. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2017 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact This may lead towards flexible silicon-based solar cells on extremely thin substrates ( <25 microns) 
 
Description Printed Electronics Limited 
Organisation Printed Electronics Ltd
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution • Organise Quarterly Consortium Meetings • Report project progress against objectives • Ensure quarterly claims are prepared for each consortium member with forecasts • Deposition of catalyst layer on various substrates and analysis of deposited layers • Deposition of silicon nano-structures using PECVD system, and analysis of deposited films by SEM, RAMAN, UV-VIS, XRD, FTIR, etc. • Fabrication of photovoltaic solar cells and their analysis.
Collaborator Contribution Printed Electronics Limited (PEL) - to use printing methods to provide a low cost deposition process for the liquid materials used for the silicon nanowire precursors, in order to determine whether processes could be scaled using existing printing and known roll-to-roll (R2R) methods.
Impact PEL - have developed new ink formulations that enable the pre-cursors for silicon nanowires to be deposited at low cost using an inkjet process. The process is non-contact and so lends itself to thin polymeric substrates as well as glass and other rigid materials.
Start Year 2016
 
Description Victrex plc 
Organisation Victrex
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution • Organise Quarterly Consortium Meetings • Report project progress against objectives • Ensure quarterly claims are prepared for each consortium member with forecasts • Deposition of MOs on various substrates and analysis of deposited layers • Deposition of silicon nano-structures using PECVD system, and analysis of deposited films by SEM, RAMAN, UV-VIS, XRD, FTIR, etc. • Fabrication of photovoltaic solar cells and their analysis on PEEK substrates provided by Victrex Plc.
Collaborator Contribution VICTREX - have provided substrates from their range of PEEK materials and have developed a deeper understanding of when/where such materials can be used in these processes.
Impact The role of Victrex in this project was to understand the suitability of a new high dimensional stability PEEK film (Bi-Axially orientated) to high temperature processes such as the deposition of silicon photovoltaic cells. This was partially achieved in that the deposition of PV silicon was achieved towards the end of the project.
Start Year 2016
 
Description The Rushlight Summer Showcase, held at the Royal Geographical Society, London 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact The Rushlight Summer Showcase is THE marketplace that brings together over 250 cleantech developers and sustainable solution providers, active European investors & financiers, corporate venturers, government departments, consultants, intermediaries, advisers and businesses looking to source suppliers and partners for an improved level of sustainability in their supply chain and operations.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Thin Film and Coating Technologies for Science & Industry meeting 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Plasma Enhanced Chemical Vapour Deposition of Silicon Nano-structures and their applications in Electronic and Energy related Devices, Thin Film and Coating Technologies for Science & Industry meeting, 11th October 2017 at Ricoh Arena, Coventry, UK.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description iMatSci 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact A novel method for Manufacturing of Crystalline Silicon structures - iMatSci Technology Pitch at Materials Research Society's Fall Meeting at Boston, USA(2016). MatSci Innovator Showcase provides a platform for technology leaders at universities, research labs and start-up companies to demonstrate the practical applications of innovative, materials-based technologies. The goal of this program is to convene innovators, industry leaders and investors in one location to spur collaboration that accelerates the adoption of new materials technologies for real-world applications.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016