Friday, January 25, 2013

DOE to award up to $12M to accelerate record-breaking solar cell efficiency

As part of the Energy Department's SunShot Initiative, the US Department of Energy (DOE) issued a new funding opportunity announcement (DE-FOA-0000806) for up to $12 million to develop innovative, ultra-efficient solar devices that will close the gap with the theoretical efficiency limit, or the highest potential percentage of sunlight converted directly into electricity.

In 1961, William Shockley and Hans Queisser published their seminal research detailing the limit of energy conversion efficiency for solar cells. Since then, various solar technologies have come closer to meeting this maximum level, about 30% for a single-junction solar cell.

The new initiative-the Foundational Program to Advance Cell Efficiency II (FPACEII)-aims to accelerate record-breaking conversion efficiencies that will close the gap with this theoretical limit for a variety of PV cells including silicon-based technologies and thin-film materials such as cadmium telluride (CdTe) and cooper indium gallium diselenide (CIGS).

More specifically, the FOA is soliciting collaborative research teams to define and fabricate model systems that utilize a single p-n junction device structure and have the potential to approach the Shockley-Queisser power conversion efficiency limits (for a chosen bandgap and absorber material).

The emphasis of the FOA is assembling cohesive and highly diverse teams of experts within and outside the PV community who can achieve the goals of creating a model system concept and a subsequent device that can approach theoretical limits.

DOE SunShot anticipates significant collaboration between experts in fundamental materials, characterization, device physics, ab-initio simulations, and PV device integration to adequately address these issues.

The new funding opportunity builds on the SunShot Initiative's FPACEI projects awarded in September 2011 which are aimed at eliminating the gap between the efficiencies of best prototype cells achieved in the laboratory and the efficiencies of typical cells produced on manufacturing lines.