VOLUME 19 #3

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‘A bright day’ for solar energy projects

Juejun Hu and Robert Birkmire
Photo by Kathy F. Atkinson
Juejun Hu (left) and Robert Birkmire are working on a project to create a coating on solar cells that will increase efficiency.

RESEARCH | The University has won $9.1 million for solar energy research and development through the SunShot Initiative sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy. UD was awarded five grants and one subcontract, far outpacing all other major research universities competing for funding.

Mark Barteau, senior vice provost for research and strategic initiatives, attributes the University’s success in the competition to the outstanding capabilities and leadership of the Institute of Energy Conversion (IEC), which is involved in each of the grants.

“It is a bright day for UD research,” Barteau says. “These solar projects mark a major advance in renewable energy research and development that will benefit our University community, industry and the nation through the important discoveries that will be made, and the students who will be trained in next-generation clean-energy technologies.”

The projects that were awarded grants focus on:

  • Creating a coating on solar cells that will increase the absorption of light and increase solar cell efficiencies;
  • Developing a fundamental understanding of how sodium impacts the properties of thin-film copper indium gallium diselenide (CIGS) solar cells and pinpointing how sodium improves the performance of those cells;
  • Lowering the cost of crystalline silicon solar cells by reducing both materials and manufacturing costs, using a new device design patented by UD;
  • Making CIGS manufacturing less costly by developing the science and technology associated with halving the thickness of the CIGS absorber layer and using a superstrate cell configuration;
  • Advancing processing technologies using chemical reactions to form CIGS films from metal layers; and
  • In a subcontract from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo., using several of IEC’s unique capabilities to contribute to the lab’s program to reduce the cost of CIGS technology.

In addition to IEC researchers, some of the projects include faculty members from the departments of Materials Science and Engineering and of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

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