Nicholas C. Strandwitz, Assistant Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, has been awarded an NSF grant for research entitled Silicon Metal-Insulator-Semiconductor Photovoltaics with Atomic Layer Deposited Interfacial Layers.
The sun represents the most abundant potential source of sustainable energy on earth. Solar cells for producing electricity require materials that absorb the sun’s energy and convert its photons to electrons, a process called photovoltaics. Lowering the cost per watt for solar photovoltaic energy conversion systems is a long-standing goal that could enable more widespread adoption of solar energy. In particular, thin-film solar cells can be made cheaper than crystalline silicon-based solar cells if the right combination of material properties for high solar energy conversion efficiency can be found.
This project will investigate new layered structures for thin-film solar photovoltaics that potentially offer both low-cost processing and high solar energy conversion efficiency. These new layered structures, based on a metal-insulator-semiconductor sandwich of electronic materials, have behavior at their respective material boundaries that may favorably change the overall electronic structure and properties of the solar cell, resulting in improved performance.
Advanced techniques will be used to deposit these layers on top of one another with atomic level precision so that these properties can be more carefully and insightfully studied.
The project will also include the development of a community outreach program with a local science center, as well as video production to animate the effects of physics behind the operation of photovoltaic devices.