Our main research activities include;
Current Research Projects
NEW EPSRC Research Grant for Space Application
The Centre for Solar Energy Research has been awarded a NEW EPSRC Research Grant on High-power, low weight, flexible thin film photovoltaics for space application with partners; Qioptiq Space Technology, Surrey University and Surrey Satellite Technology. This is a 36 month grant which will be led by Professor Stuart Irvine as the PI and Dr Dan Lamb as the researcher/co-investigator. The project is to develop a completely new type of solar module for powering satellites and even space vehicles based on a very high power to weight ratio. This is a very exciting project with an excellent world class team and we anticipate that this will eventually lead to new manufacturing opportunities in North Wales
Towards Sinter-free Printing of Photovoltaic Cell Interconnects (EPSRC)
Metal thin films are used in a wide variety of technologies, such as solar cells and printed circuit boards for electronics. Inkjet printing has emerged as a practical and low-cost route for manufacturing electrical contacts in these applications. However existing manufacturing technologies use inks that often require a final heat treatment to consolidate or 'sinter' the film. If this last step can be eliminated, by depositing fully dense films, then the inkjet manufacturing process could be applied to temperature sensitive substrates like plastics or vulnerable semiconductor materials.
The purpose of this project is to develop 'sinter-free' inkjet manufacturing processes, by taking ink precursors developed for other thin film processes, and exploiting them to use the significant benefits of inkjet process technology e.g. the direct writing of interconnects or wires. If successful, the project will represent a step-change in the manufacturing methods for this type of film.
The aims of the project are to enable grid parity for PV solar energy in Wales by 2015, to enhance the adoption of PV solar electricity and help to meet the ambitious carbon neutral target for Wales by 2025. The SPARC Cymru project aims to accelerate academic research in new PV materials for solar energy conversion, leading to a new generation of low cost PV module products. We will explore both very low cost dye sensitised solar cells (DSSC) and thin film inorganic materials. A holistic approach to the development of new, low cost PV module technology will also address the power electronics used to extract the electrical power from the modules.
The aim of SOLCER is to implement existing and emerging low carbon technologies through a systems based approach at different scales (ie. building, community, local authority/regional) and to learn appropriate lessons about how to secure wider implementation.
Much research is being undertaken on how the UK and Wales’s long term carbon targets are to be achieved through various transitional models. However, there is also an urgent need to apply existing and emerging technologies, effectively and sustainably in the short term. It is believed that successful short term implementation of low carbon technologies should be based on:
1) a systematic holistic based approach;
2) an assessment of energy and cost performance as part of a systems approach;
3) an assessment of support systems needed for large scale implementation, including skills, knowledge transfer, supply chains etc.
Low carbon technologies can be applied over a range of scales. This project will consider scales, from building to community to local authority. The systems based approach will consider a combination of energy demand, storage and supply technologies integrated into specific applications.
The Sustainable Product Engineering Centre for Innovative Functional Industrial Coatings (SPECIFIC) project is a consortium of academic & industrial partners working towards the transformation of buildings into power stations through the application of functional energy generation coatings applied to roofs and walls. The aim is scaled production of solar thermal and PV products delivering the following by 2020.
· A new billion pound manufacturing sector creating new business opportunities, 7000 new jobs and significant export potential.
· Generation of one third of the UK’s renewable energy requirement by 2020, 10.8 GW peak (the equivalent of 5 coal fired power stations) or 19 TWh.
· An annual saving of 6 million tonnes CO2.
SPECIFIC will deliver this by capturing the knowledge held in UK universities and rapidly scaling concepts. The aim is to accelerate the deployment of low carbon energy systems, resulting in an annual production of 20 million m2 of functional coated materials on metal and glass by 2020. This is a commercially prudent figure representing only 0.5% of the existing building stock and is equivalent of a 6% conversion of manufacturing capacity for the core partners.
CIRP (A4B Collaborative Industrial Research Projects)
These projects provide research expertise from CSER to work collaboratively with industry on applied research project. The project provides the team the opportunity to investigate methods for silicon wafer screening and indeed the potential for the alternative thin film photovoltaic platforms to be screened and monitored during the in-line production. As with all continuous production lines the efficiency and yield of PV products are the key drivers for a cost-effective process. Any non-invasive screening technique that can operate at production speed highlighting, at an early stage, a defective wafer or semiconductor layer is greatly sought after by the PV manufacturing community. The project will trial semiconductor material properties monitoring devices based on non-contact techniques that can offer a wide range of data to end-users in PV.
The Welsh Energy Sector Training (WEST) project is funded through LCRI Convergence Energy Programme and is aiming for long-term economic growth and the creation of employment opportunities for Wales through Research, Development and Innovation. There are five key research themes within LCRI where WEST will develop and pilot training modules within Wales and CSER are leading the Solar PV theme.
The project focuses on deposition of cadmium telluride (CdTe) structures for thin film photovoltaic (PV) on a heated moving substrate using atmospheric pressure metalorganic chemical vapour deposition (AP-MOCVD). Because there are many advantages to move away from vacuum based deposition techniques the project will focus on the design, development and testing of novel coating head arrangements through advanced CFD modelling. The novel coating heads will fit within an AP-MOCVD inline process, being built at CSER as part of Solar Photovoltaic Academic Research Consortium (SPARC) Cymru project funded by the Lower Carbon Research Institute (LCRI) through the European Convergence Region Programme. The establishment of the gas and surface chemical reactions accruing during the pyrolysis of CdTe and Cadmium Sulphide (CdS) by MOCVD, will provide valuable input towards scaling up thin film solar cells by AP-MOCVD in Wales. The optimisation of the process through methodical experiments correlated with models should result in improvements of material utilisation and uniformity of the precursor gas delivery. The characterisation of deposited layers and full PV devices will allow the effectiveness of the new designed process to be assessed and recommendation to be given.
Completed Research Projects
PV Supergen – PV Materials and Devices for the 21st Century
This project received funding from EPSRC for a further 4 years from April 2008. It was a collaborative project across UK academic research teams and industry to research new advances in thin film PV materials and devices. The CSER team had two MOCVD (metal organic chemical vapour deposition) reactors dedicated to this project.One reactor was used for innovative transparent conducting oxide (TCO) research based on ZnO and CdO. Another reactor is capable of producing complete CdS/CdTe PV device structures and was used for innovative research on improved window layers, ultra-thin CdTe absorbers and grain engineering.
CSER Thin Film Photovoltaic KTC
The KTC project focused on a rapidly growing Photovoltaic (PV) solar energy market area, thin film PV, the fastest growing sector, expected to become 30% of the market by 2015 (10% presently). The project provided businesses in Wales working in this sector with R&D problem solving support using new analytical equipment and processing/production capacities not available in the UK. This provided the opportunity to carry out R&D and new product trials with assistance from a research centre with renowned PV experience, thereby allowing CSER to expand its research support into a new area.