Application Targeted and Integrated Photovoltaics - Enhancing UK Capability in Solar

Lead Research Organisation: Swansea University
Department Name: School of Engineering

Abstract

Solar photovoltaic (PV) technology is becoming a major source of renewable energy around the globe, with the International Energy Agency predicting it to be the largest contributor to renewables by 2024. This uptake is driven by the building of large PV power plants in regions of high solar resource, and also by the deployment of so-called distributed PV on the roofs of homes and industrial sites. The dominant PV technology to date has been based upon the crystalline semiconductor silicon. The production of silicon PV panels has been commoditised for large-scale manufacturing with costs reducing by a factor of ten in under a decade.

Our research addresses the next generation of printed PV technologies which could deliver solar energy with far greater functional and processing flexibility than c-Si or traditional compound semiconductors, enabling tuneable design to meet the requirements of market applications inaccessible to current PV technologies. In particular, we seek to advance photovoltaics based upon organic and perovskite semiconductors - materials which can be processed from solution into the simplest possible solar cell structures, hence reducing cost and embodied energy from the manufacturing. These new technologies are still in the early stages of development with many fundamental scientific and engineering challenges still to be addressed. These challenges will be the foci of our research agenda, as will the development of solar cells for specific applications for which there is currently no optimal technological solution, but which need attributes such as light weight, flexible form factor, tuned spectral response or semi-transparency. These are unique selling points of organic and perovskite solar PV but fall outside the performance (and often cost) windows of the traditional technologies. Our specific target sectors are power for high value communications (for example battery integratable solar cells for unmanned aerial vehicles), and improved energy and resource efficiency power for the built environment (including solar windows and local for 'internet of things' devices). In essence we seek to extend the reach and application of PV beyond the provision of stationary energy.

To deliver our ambitious research and technology development agenda we have assembled three world-renowned groups in next generation PV researchers at Swansea University, Imperial College London and Oxford University. All are field leaders and the assembled team spans the fundamental and applied science and engineering needed to answer both the outstanding fundamental questions and reduce the next generation PV technology to practise. Our research programme called Application Targeted Integrated Photovoltaics also involves industrial partners from across the PV supply chain - early manufacturers of the PV technology, component suppliers and large end users who understand the technical and cost requirements to deliver a viable product. The programme is primarily motivated by the clear need to reduce CO2 emissions across our economies and societies and our target sectors are of high priority and potential in this regard. It is also important for the UK to maintain an internationally competitive capability (and profile) in the area of next generation renewables. As part of our agenda we will be ensuring the training of scientists and engineers equipped with the necessary multi-disciplinary skills and closely connected to the emerging industry and its needs to ensure the UK stays pre-eminent in next generation photovoltaics.

Planned Impact

The global climate change agenda mandates that we must advance every possible opportunity to reduce carbon emissions including the development of new energy generating technologies. Our proposed research involves the advancement of one such technology, namely next generation photovoltaics, but with an agenda that expands the use of solar PV to applications where there is no current solution. For example, electrical energy is required in the built environment to power sensors wirelessly as the Internet of Things becomes a ubiquitous concept. The 5G revolution will be enabled by pseudo satellites and high altitude unmanned aerial vehicles which require ultra-light-weight-high-power-density PV sources integrated with battery storage. Transforming buildings to make them zero-carbon necessitates massive innovation in building integrated power generation such as photovoltaic windows and indoor ambient light harvesting.

Our research provides multiple direct and indirect pathways to delivering impact in these agendas. Firstly, we will advance the basic science and engineering to progress our understanding of how to generate electrical energy from low cost, simple semiconductor materials which can be processed with low embodied energy. Secondly, we will develop the manufacturing methodologies to enable viable photovoltaic modules to be created at a scale to generate useful power. Thirdly, we will demonstrate via prototype realisation an integrated application of next generation PV which will not only help pull-through of the technology, but also push the technological and economic limits of PV. Thus, our programme is closely aligned to current national priorities embodied in the UK's industrial and societal plans such as Industrial Decarbonisation, Transforming Construction and Future Flight.

Publications

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Calado P (2021) Ionic screening in perovskite p-n homojunctions in Nature Energy

 
Title Photoluminescence/electroluminescence multifunctional operando spectroscopy system 
Description A high-sensitive and multifunctional operando spectroscopy system has been built in Durrant Group recently. This system can not only measure the operando photoluminescence/electroluminescence for a solar cell during a current-voltage measurement under/without illumination, but also can conduct electro-absorption spectroscopy measurement for those devices. This system has offered us a new path to investigate and understand the radiative and non-radiative loss mechanism in both perovskite and organic solar cells. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2022 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact This system is very useful to not only measure the operando photoluminescence/electroluminescence for a solar cell during a current-voltage measurement under/without illumination, but also can conduct electro-absorption spectroscopy measurement for those devices. The systems has been made available to the different research teams in the programme. 
 
Title Methodology for Determination of Exciton Dissociation Efficiency Impact in Low Offset Systems 
Description Exciton diffusion plays a decisive role in various organic optoelectronic applications including lasing, photodiodes, light emitting diodes, and solar cells. Understanding the role that exciton diffusion plays in organic solar cells is crucial to understanding the recent rise in power conversion efficiencies brought about by non-fullerene acceptor molecules (NFAs). Established methods for quantifying exciton diffusion lengths in organic semiconductors require specialized equipment designed for measuring high-resolution time-resolved photo-luminescence (TRPL). In this article we introduce an approach, named pulsed-PLQY, to determine the diffusion length of excitons in organic semiconductors without any temporal measurements. Using a Monte-Carlo model the dynamics within a thin film semiconductor are simulated and the results are analysed using both pulsed-PLQY and TRPL methods. It is found that pulsed-PLQY has a larger operational window and depends less on the excitation fluence than the TRPL approach. The simulated results are validated experimentally on a well understood organic semiconductor, after which pulsed-PLQY is used to evaluate the diffusion length in a variety of technologically relevant materials. It is found that the diffusion lengths in NFAs are much larger than in the benchmark fullerene and that this increase is driven by an increase in diffusivity. This result helps explain the high charge generation yield in low-offset state-of-the-art NFA solar cells. 
Type Of Material Computer model/algorithm 
Year Produced 2022 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact This model allows to understand the role that exciton diffusion plays in organic solar cells and how this impacts the power conversion efficiencies brought about by non-fullerene acceptor molecules (NFAs) 
 
Title Methodology for the Quantification of Energetic Disorder in Disordered Semiconductors 
Description Organic semiconductors are disordered molecular solids and as a result, their internal charge dynamics and ultimately, the performance of the optoelectronic devices they constitute, are governed by energetic disorder. To ascertain how energetic disorder impacts charge generation, exciton transport, charge transport, and the performance of organic semiconductor devices, an accurate approach is first required to measure this critical parameter. In this work, we show that the static disorder has no relation with the so-called Urbach energy in organic semiconductors. Instead, it can be obtained from photovoltaic external quantum efficiency spectra at wavelengths near the absorption onset. We then present a detailed methodology, alongside a computational framework, for quantifying the static energetic disorder associated with singlet excitons. Moreover, the role of optical interference in this analysis is considered to achieve a high-accuracy quantification. Finally, the excitonic static disorder was quantified in several technologically-relevant donor-acceptor blends, including high-efficiency PM6:Y6 
Type Of Material Computer model/algorithm 
Year Produced 2022 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact The use of this model in the the analysis of solar devices allows to achieve a high-accuracy quantification. 
 
Description Participation in Supersolar Network 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)
Department SuperSolar Hub
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Delivery of technical presentation in Webinar
Collaborator Contribution Engagement and Dissemination
Impact Online Webinar
Start Year 2020
 
Description Partnership Swansea University / CSEM 
Organisation CSEM Brasil
Country Brazil 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Collaborative project in OPV research
Collaborator Contribution Material testing and product design
Impact Material testing and product design Research talks in workshops
Start Year 2020
 
Description Partnership Swansea University / NPL 
Organisation National Physical Laboratory
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Develop capability for lifetime and performance testing
Collaborator Contribution Attending workshop and meetings. Presentation to the wider team
Impact Multi-disciplinary- engineering , physics and materials Testing protocols
Start Year 2020
 
Description Partnership Swansea University / Polysolar 
Organisation Polysolar
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Research feedback
Collaborator Contribution Staff time for product design and market assessment Participation in research and technical workshops
Impact Feedback on product design and market assessment Participation in research and technical workshops
Start Year 2020
 
Description Partnership with QMUL 
Organisation Queen Mary University of London
Department Queen Mary Innovation
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Further academic engagement has been agreed with former colleagues at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) Dr Li Zhe and Dr Stoichko Dimitrov
Collaborator Contribution Both Li and Stoichko have been named associated research partners and have been invited to the technical review meetings.
Impact Discussion on research activities in the area of lifetime and stability of PV devices.
Start Year 2021
 
Description Research Collaborative between Swansea University and ARMOR 
Organisation Armor Group
Country United States 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Understanding of the gap between lab devices and scale up devices Testing Characterisation of materials and devices
Collaborator Contribution Feedback on technical challenges on OPV devices
Impact 2 possible papers
Start Year 2019
 
Description Research Collaborative project with Airbus 
Organisation Airbus Group
Department Airbus Operations
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Research on PV for aerospace applications
Collaborator Contribution Feedback on technical challenges
Impact Testing protocol
Start Year 2019
 
Description Research Collaborative project with College of Science (Swansea University) 
Organisation Swansea University
Department College of Science
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Dr Francisco Martin-Martinez and Dr James Ryan has been appointed as associate research partners within ATIP. They co-supervised a PhD student aligned with ATIP.
Collaborator Contribution Dr Francisco Martin-Martinez and Dr James Ryan are co-supervising a PhD student working on PV device characterisation.
Impact Dr Francisco Martin-Martinez and Dr James Ryan have been attending to meetings and joining in the technical discussions.
Start Year 2021
 
Description Research Collaborative project with Power Roll 
Organisation Power Roll Ltd
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution This collaboration aims to advance the Power Roll groove-based photovoltaic modules to a scalable and efficient product by using the expertise and technical resources available at SPECIFIC
Collaborator Contribution the PDRA is investigating and developing the following aspects of research: 1. Investigate the materials supplied by Power Roll and identify the bottlenecks to device efficiency, stability and scalability. For this purpose, spectroscopic, electric and microscopy measurements will be performed in Specific facilities on PRL vacuum-coated films to identify the strategies for improving the current manufacturing processes. 2. Identify and apply new processes for improving the materials post-vacuum deposition by using the equipment available at Specific and transferring the expertise to Power Roll. 3. Improve the current perovskite coating parameters and develop new methods for improved photovoltaic performance. This is expected to be performed by assisting during the manufacturing at Power Roll and performing research in parallel on Specific S2S and R2R equipment with subsequent transfer of knowledge. 4. Improve current perovskite ink formulations through processes optimisation or identification and validation of new beneficial additives; generate and test new ink formulations based on literature research and using the expertise accumulated at Specific. 5. Perform spectroscopic, electric, and microscopy studies on the deposited perovskite inks to generate new ideas for ink formulation and process optimisation.
Impact Outputs : Research contract and sponsorship of 2 EngD
Start Year 2021
 
Description ATIP Vlog in SPECIFIC social media 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Q&A vlog with Silvia Villarroya-Lidon, ATIP programme manager and SPECIFIC's Innovation & Engagement Fellow,
About the work we do with business at research level - both in the UK and internationally.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description ATIP project Newsletter 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Newsletters have been published highlighting some of the activities within the project
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020,2021
 
Description Advisory Board Meeting 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact Advisory Board meeting took place in October 2021 after the 1 year technical review.
We reviewed the deliverables and outputs in year 1 and agree on some plans for year 2.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Industrial Workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact 60 people attended the Industrial workshop. We had presentation from industry focused in the application targets.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Interview in BBC 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Professor James Durrant was interviewed
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-53602307
 
Description Official Announcement 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Official Announcement was made on Monday 27th July led by Swansea University and followed by EPSRC and other entities.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://www.swansea.ac.uk/press-office/news-events/news/2020/07/6-million-award-to-drive-next-genera...
 
Description Supersolar / ATIP Joint Webinar 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact ATIP hosted a joint webinar event with Supersolar Network to introduce ATIP to the broader community. The webinar took place in 9th December 2020 at 1pm We had talks from Professor Paul Meredith, Professor Trystan Watson, Professor Jenny Nelson and Dr Chung Tsoi.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Technical Workshops 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact We have organised Technical Workshop and working group meeting to further discuss research areas of the project and strengthen collaborations across the research groups.
We have invited to the workshop to other businesses and research organisations, that in some occasions has deliver new involvement and partnership.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020,2021,2022
 
Description Twitter account 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Twitter account created
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://twitter.com/atip_pg
 
Description Website Creation 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Engagement focused website was created
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://www.swansea.ac.uk/engineering/research/materials-manufacturing/atip/