Low-cost method may mean production of CIGS solar cells on commercial scale

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Washington, July 8 (ANI): A team of scientists has developed a low-cost solution processing method for CIGS (copper-indium-gallium-selenide) based solar cells that could provide an answer to the problem of their production on a commercial scale.

CIGS panels have a high efficiency potential, may be cheaper to produce and would use less raw materials than silicon solar panels.

But unfortunately, manufacturing of CIGS panels on a commercial scale has thus far proven to be difficult.

Recently, researchers at the UCLA (University of California Los Angeles) Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science have developed a low-cost solution processing method for CIGS-based solar cells that could provide an answer to the manufacturing issue.

In a new study, Yang Yang, a professor in the school's Department of Materials Science and Engineering, and his research team show how they have developed a low-cost solution processing method for their copper-indium-diselenide solar cells which have the potential to be produced on a large scale.

"This CIGS-based material can demonstrate very high efficiency," said William Hou, a graduate student on Yang's team and first author of the study.

"People have already demonstrated efficiency levels of up to 20 percent, but the current processing method is costly. Ultimately the cost of fabricating the product makes it difficult to be competitive with current grid prices," he said.

"However, with the solution process that we recently developed, we can inherently reach the same efficiency levels and bring the cost of manufacturing down quite significantly," he explained.

The copper-indium-diselenide thin-film solar cell developed by Yang's team achieved 7.5 percent efficiency in the published study but has in a short amount of time already improved to 9.13 percent in the lab.

"We started this process 16 months ago from ground zero. We spent three to four months getting the material to reach 1 percent and today it's around 9 percent. That is about an average increase of 1 percent every two months," said Yang, also a member of the California NanoSystems Institute, where some of the work is being done.

"In our method, material utilization is one advantage. Another advantage is our solution technology has the potential to be fabricated in a continuous roll-to-roll process. Both are important breakthroughs in terms of cost," said Hou.

The team's goal is to reach an efficiency level of 15 to 20 percent. Yang predicts three to four years before commercialization. (ANI)

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