'Fast Track' project to develop thin film technology


The 18 companies and research partners, which is also comprised of representatives from Oerlikon Solar, Euroglas and Singulus, have come together to work on the project titled ‘Fast Track'. The group aims to develop a commercial prototype with an efficiency of 12 percent in the next three years. €9.3 million in research funds have been granted by the EU.The project is being coordinated by the research center Forschungszentrum Jülich in Germany.

The kick-off meeting took place last week in Jülich and was attended by the partners involved.

Thin film companies have in the last years managed to push their efficiencies up to ten percent. This is still below the efficiency of conventional silicon technologies. But, as the research center Jülich states, thin film modules can be produced more economically. The Fast Track project will seek to bring together the leading research and industry representatives to pool their expertise, and combine the best components to create a new generation thin film silicon solar module with 12 percent efficiency. Under test conditions, the costs amount to less than €0.50 per watt nominal power, but a 20 percent increase in efficiency.

Various nanomaterials and optical functional layers will be examined and researchers will try to refine the entire process chain. "The basic difficulty consists in adjusting the different components to each other. A slight modification that improves the conductivity of one of the upper layers may, for example, have a negative impact on the current densities generated in the lower layers," explains project coordinator, Aad Gordijn from Forschungszentrum Jülich. The scientists in the Fast Track project aim to influence the optical and electronic properties even more effectively by making use of nanocrystalline silicon dioxide – a novel "multiphase" material, whose solid structure displays greater degrees of freedom than pure silicon.

The surface condition of the various layers is also being scrutinized. Structures on a nanometre scale will help to improve light trapping. However, it is not yet possible to predict what the perfect light-scattering layer will look like. "We are going to test superimpositions of different structures based on craters or pyramids in order to arrive at an optimized morphology," says Gordijn.

The project is scheduled to run until February 28, 2015 and then a latest new prototype should be available as a model for industrial production.

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