Scientists at Germany’s Fraunhofer ISE developed a model to simulate different setups for screen printing in solar cell metallization. The model provides a comparable ‘screen utility index’ value that can predict the usefulness of different architectures in the printing equipment in relation to the properties of a given silver paste. The approach, says Fraunhofer, will assist the PV industry in reducing the amounts of silver needed in silicon cell manufacturing.
Scientists in Germany demonstrated a slot die coating process for large-scale production of perovskite thin-film solar cells that achieved a maximum efficiency of 20.83%. Using an additive, and experimenting to find the optimal concentration, the group demonstrated improved control over the crystallization process – crucial for developing stable, repeatable processing.
Scientists in the U.S. laid out the rationale behind new PV module testing specifications published last year, which aim to better take into account the role of temperature in various types of performance loss. They suggest a new ‘98th percentile’ approach to measuring module operating temperatures, which would offer system designers a better understanding of the module’s performance in a particular ‘micro-environment’.
Both solar and the farming industry are beginning to see potential in the combined use of land for food production and energy generation. And as innovators begin to experiment with different forms, it’s becoming clear that in most cases it is solar that will have to bend to the needs of agriculture, and not the other way around, to ensure a positive outcome.
Scientists in Sweden developed a new aerogel process to manufacture silicon anodes for lithium-ion batteries, promising to offer batteries with greatly increased capacity compared to those on sale today. By growing nanometer-sized particles of silicon onto graphite, the group was able to demonstrate a device that overcomes many of the challenges common to silicon as anode material. While there are still challenges in terms of stability and capacity retention, the approach could ultimately yield low-cost, large-scale production processes.
In various forms, quantum dot technology has attracted plenty of attention among PV researchers recently. And as efficiencies have crept past the 15% mark, the community is beginning to look at other factors limiting the viability of quantum dot solar cells in a commercial setting. Scientists in Germany examined the degradation mechanisms affecting different quantum dot materials; and suggest a standardization of stability testing to enable comparability of results.
Scientists in South Korea developed a foldable thin-film device with some promising characteristics. Integrating a perovskite cell material and a carbon nanotube electrode, the group fabricated a device that achieved 15.2% efficiency and could withstand being folded more than 10,000 times at a bending radius of 0.5mm.
UK-based company Power Roll has picked up £5.8 million in investment over the past six months and plans to begin pilot production this year. The company has developed a unique flexible thin-film technology, which promises to combine both solar generation and storage.
A new report published by the International Energy Agency’s Photovoltaic Power Systems Program (IEA PVPS) outlines the need for PV module standards and testing to focus on ‘energy rating’ – an estimate of actual performance in a variety of climate conditions, rather than nominal power output or efficiency. The report finds that the IEC and other standards bodies are already beginning to make encouraging moves in this direction, but more work, and more data, are needed to make the most out of this approach.
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