The integration of photovoltaic devices with carbon-fibre composites

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


Perovskite semiconductors are a new class of semiconductor that can be used as the active layer in photovoltaic (solar cell) devices, producing low-carbon electricity directly from sunlight. The best perovskite solar cells can now convert sunlight to electrical energy with an efficiency of over 22%, with such devices being produced using solution based techniques. Here, a perovskite 'precursor' solution can be spread over a surface which then forms the perovskite semiconductor material. This process is expected to allow perovskites to be 'printed' onto surfaces, allowing solar cells to be produced at very low cost.

In this project, we will focus on the use of spray-coating to deposit perovskite solar cells. Spray-coating is routinely used to coat paints and pigments in many manufacturing processes, and critically is not restricted to coating 'flat' surfaces, but can cover curved surfaces - for example the curved roof of an automobile. We will take full advantage of this, and will make the first detailed study of the use of spray-coating to coat perovskite solar cells over non-planar surfaces, e.g. over cylinders or aerofoil-shapes (similar to the shape of an aeroplane-wing).

We believe that the results of this work will form the basis of a series of new technologies. A particular focus of our work will be to use spray-based techniques to coat perovskite PV over carbon-fibre composite materials. Carbon-fibre is already widely used in industry as a high-performance, light-weight engineering material - e.g. forming the body of sports-cars, the hulls of yachts and in other demanding applications. By coating the surface of carbon-fibre with a solar-cell, we will be able to create a new class of super-strong, lightweight materials that are able to generate electricity from sunlight at low cost.

We believe such materials will be of particular importance in generating power for mobile applications, and will have identified a range of applications in the aerospace and automotive sectors. To realize such a task we have assembled a team of researchers having world-leading expertise in the development of spray and deposition techniques to fabricate perovskite solar cells, together with researchers expert in the processing and testing of carbon-fibre composite materials. A key part of the project will be to understand the interactions between the different materials that we will deposit and the carbon fibre surface. We will make a full characterization of the mechanical properties of the solar-cells we develop, and will explore techniques to 'encapsulate' such devices to maximise their operational lifetime.


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