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Solar panels get a splash of colour

Posted: 09 Jul 2013 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:solar panel? photovoltaics? silicon wafer?

The Jena-based researchers have thus managed to combine wafer-based silicon with processes borrowed from thin-film photovoltaics. They are also pioneering the use of innovative coating materials. Indium tin oxide is the most common material used today, but it is expensive. The IOF laboratory is working on how to use cheaper zinc oxide with added aluminium. New opportunities in fa?ade design are being opened up not just by SIS solar cells, however, but also by dye solar modules and flexible organic solar cells.

But how does colour affect the efficiency of these new SIS modules? "Giving solar cells colour doesn't really affect their efficiency. The additional transparent TCO layer has barely any impact on the current yield," Fchsel indicated. Simulations showed that SIS cells could be up to 20 per cent efficient. In practice, the efficiency depends on the design of the solar panels and the direction the building faces. But not every colour allows you to generate the same amount of electricity. There are restrictions for example with certain blends of red, blue and green.

To connect several solar cells to create a single module the IOF scientist will use laser-based optical welding processes. They enable accurate work at a micrometre scale and do not damage the surrounding material. Researchers are also developing an inkjet printing process to contact the conductive TCO later on the silicon wafer. This will make manufacturing faster and allow additional degrees of flexibility in design. SIS solar cells could even be used to make large billboards that produce their own electricity. Patents already cover the production of coloured cells, as well as the ability to integrate design elements into solar panels and whole modules. "This opens up numerous possibilities to use a building to communicate information, displaying the name of a company or even artistic pictures," Fchsel continued.


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