NREL, German researchers sign MOU for advancement of solar cells, fuels

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American researchers from the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with German researchers aiming to make new developments in solar cells and solar fuel production. The MOU will also see the two teams working to improve the performance of concentrating solar thermal power systems.

Signed in Berlin by NREL Director Dan Arvizu and leaders from the Research Center Jülich (FZ Jülich), the Helmholtz Center Berlin (HZB), and the German Aerospace Center (DLR), the MOU will have the researchers investigating several key areas for new materials that can potentially lead to the development of more efficient solar cells and fuels. The scientists plan to create and use fast imaging techniques that will enable the characterization of thin-film materials on the micrometer to nanometer scale while also characterizing the in situ growth process.

The research teams are also seeking a better understanding of grain boundary/interface passivation in thin-film silicon and plan to explore the potential and limits of wide band-gap thin-film solar cells. Furthermore, the MOU will see the NREL and German researchers measure the performance and reliability of solar cells and modules by using electroluminescence, photoluminescence and thermography.

Solar cells’ stability will be tested by exposing them to high temperature and light exposure while new device structures and lower-cost catalysts will be explored for the development of hydrogen in photocatalytic solar fuel generation.

“This agreement promises to advance the state of knowledge and the development of new materials and technologies that will form the basis of next-generation solar cells and solar fuels,” stated Arvizu.

The MOU’s directive to work on CSP systems builds on a MOU NREL signed two years ago with DLR.  The original MOU aimed to progress standard test methods for the assessment of the reflectance and durability of solar mirrors in CSP systems and required round robin testing of commercial reflector samples and parabolic trough receivers. In this updated MOU between with the NREL, the two organizations will work towards acquiring a more in-depth awareness of the essential mechanisms for soiling rates on CSP mirrors.

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