2012 R&D 100 Winner
Picture a solar cell and chances are good it will look like a flat panel. The demand for photovoltaics that can conform to a certain size, shape, or structure, however, is increasing. Microsystems Enabled Photovoltaics (MEPV) from Sandia National Laboratories, Albuquerque, N.M., represent a move toward miniaturized crystalline silicon and crystalline gallium-arsenide (GaAs) solar cells that can fit within the intricate shapes and contours of various objects.
To fabricate these cells, Sandia's MEPV team has combined microfabrication techniques from several microsystem technologies. The process flow uses standard equipment and standard wafer thicknesses and allows all high-temperature processing to be performed prior to cell release. This means that both silicon and GaAs cells are backside contacted, which enables the fabrication of uniform, aesthetically pleasing front sides without electrical lines. In addition, the remaining post-release wafer can be reprocessed and reused, resulting in a substantial increase in the number of watts generated per gram of semiconductor material.
With dimensions as small as 100-μm wide and 1-μm thick, these PV building blocks can be installed in flexible, moldable, or flat-plate formats in sizes that conform to the shapes and contours of natural terrain, large structures, vehicles, and mobile electronics.
Sandia National Laboratories
|(Top row, l-r): Anna Tauke-Pedretti, Ben Anderson, Bill Sweatt, Bob Biefeld, Bongsang Kim (Second row): Bradley Jared, Carlos Sanchez, Craig Carmignani, Dan Koleske, Gerry Girard, Greg Nielson (Third row): Igal Brener, Jeff Cederberg, Jeff Koplow, Jeff Nelson (Fourth row): Jennifer Granata, Jonathan Wierer, Jose Luis Cruz-Campa, Judi Lavin (Fifth row): Kira Fishgrab, Mike Haney, Murat Okandan, Paul Resnick, Peggy Clews, Scott Paap (Bottom row): Tammy Pluym, Tian Gu, Tony Lentine, Vipin Gupta, Willie Luk|
The Microsystems Enabled Photovoltaics (MEPV) Development Team from Sandia National Laboratories
Gregory N. Nielson, Principal Developer
Jose Luis Cruz-Campa