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4 April 2016

Tampere granted €2.5m to develop III-V solar cells with up to eight junctions

The European Commission's European Research Council (ERC) has granted €2.5m to professor Mircea Guina of the Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC) at Tampere University of Technology (TUT) to apply new technology in solar cell development as part of the five-year project 'Advanced III–V Materials and Processes Enabling Ultrahigh-efficiency (50%) Photovoltaics' (scheduled to begin at the end of 2016 and run through 2021).

Currently, the best performing solar panels can convert up to 30–40% of the energy from sunlight, while the new cells could improve this to over 50%, it is reckoned. "Percentage-wise, this may not sound like a major improvement, but when you consider the fact that increased cell efficiency could reduce the energy costs by at least 20%, we are talking about billions of euros worldwide," says project leader Guina.

The ERC funding is the result of long-term research strategy at TUT. Guina's group began its research on high-efficiency solar cells supported by funding from the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation (TEKES) in 2009. At the time, material was developed that enabled several cell structures to be stacked, one atop the other, for better harvesting of the solar spectrum. A follow-up project funded by the European Space Agency (ESA) involved the development of three-junction solar cells using the same material. The new ERC project will build on the previous research and aim to develop solar cells with up to eight junctions.

The ERC funding enables Guina's group to focus on its work for the next five years. "The funding could not have been granted at a better time: this is a testimony that TUT currently holds world-leading expertise in this area of research," says Guina. 

In addition to creating new technology, Guina's group also aims to deploy the technology over a quick schedule, with the aim of making Finland one of the world's foremost countries in terms of next-generation solar energy solutions and also in the field of renewable energy as a whole, it is reckoned. "A whole soccer field full of current silicon cells could be replaced with just a few square meters worth of new cells made of the III–V materials and produce same energy," Guina explains.

This new technology could also prove useful in space. Light weight is a substantial benefit for telecommunications satellites, for example. Higher efficiency solar cells are also needed for deeper space travel. "I hope to be able to incorporate these III–V cells in satellites in approximately ten years' time, but for terrestrial purposes, the technology can be deployed a lot sooner," concludes Guina.   

Tags: III-V multi-junction solar cells

Visit: https://erc.europa.eu

Visit: www.tut.fi/en/about-tut/departments/optoelectronics-research-centre

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