Research laboratory SLAC has been awarded over US$2.6 million from the US Department of Energy to undertake three research projects into cheaper materials and manufacturing techniques for solar panels.
The organisation is one of 10 DOE Office of Science laboratories operated by Stanford University.
The first project involves collaboration between Mike Toney, who leads the SSRL Materials Science Division, and Stefan Mannsfeld, an SSRL materials science researcher, with researchers from Stanford University and Cornell University. They will look at a low-cost printing technique using solar panel materials as ink could be the solution to lowering the cost and possibly improving the performance of flexible panels. This project has received US$878,578.
The second project, in receipt of US$896,250, will study how electrons travel throughout the layers in a solar panel in order to develop new top-layer materials that let light through more efficiently.
The greatest amount of money, US$899,000, is going to the study of heat treatment on solar panel components. Samples will be rapidly heated to about 500 to 1000 degrees Celcius, with data collected in hundredths-of-a-second intervals.
Toney said he would have been delighted to receive DOE support for even one of the three submitted proposals. “We got all three, which was pretty surprising to me,” Toney said. “They are good opportunities to demonstrate how SSRL and DOE labs in general can participate in work that's more applied.”