Research out of Dallas Uncovers Innovative Technique for Solar Panel Production
December 7, 2021
One of the barriers to rapid (and therefore lower-cost) solar panel production has historically been the length of time that flexible electronics (like solar panels) take to make. In particular, a part of the process called annealing can take several hours and significantly slow down production times.
A team at the University of Texas has come up with an innovative alternative to annealing, which dramatically reduces the time it takes to complete the annealing process. Read on to discover what photonic curing is and how it can anneal flexible electronics in a millionth of the time traditional methods take.
Faster Solar Panel Production
A key part of traditional flexible electronics production involves carefully heating the thin film to extremely high temperatures — incorrect heating can easily damage the film.
The team from the University of Texas at Dallas has been investigating the effectiveness of using light pulses that last just a millisecond during the annealing process. Known as photonic curing, the light pulses can complete the process in a fraction of the time that conventional annealing takes.
Annealing is used to change the physical properties of the thin layers that make up a flexible electronic film. Using photonic curing equipment supplied by NovaCentrix, a company that creates photonic curing equipment for use with printed metal nanoparticles, the team discovered that they could effectively cure (anneal) the two layers much faster. The metal nanoparticles that make solar panels a flexible electronic are able to cure at the same time in just microseconds.
The flexible electronic film in a solar panel consists of two thin layers. One of the layers is made of halide perovskite, which is a low-cost, high-performance solar panel material. The other is an oxide that has been shown to transport the electronic charge once it has been generated.
When the photonic curing equipment was utilized on the films, both changed in a satisfactory manner in an incredibly short period of time.
Making Renewable Energy More Accessible
One of the barriers to adopting solar energy can often be the initial price of panel installation. Using photonic curing significantly reduces solar panel production costs, helping to make them more affordable and accessible to a wider audience.
In fact, the results from this work by the University of Dallas are so good that the Department of Energy (DoE) has funded further research on creating a low-cost, high-performance solar panel from halide perovskite and oxide. Moving forward, the team will continue to work with Texas-based NovaCentrix alongside Energy Materials Corp, which specializes in manufacturing halide perovskite solar panels.
Given the necessity of adopting renewable energy sources more quickly, this innovation is a welcome step forward toward faster, and therefore cheaper, solar panel production.
Featured image via Unsplash