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Nov 26th, 2013
 
ZSW achieves 10.3% efficiency with Kesterite absorber material
 
Scientists in Stuttgart had a breakthrough in their search for more advantageous materials and processes in the manufacture of efficient thin-film solar cells.
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ZSW thin-film solar cell with the new Kesterite absorber layer.
ZSW thin-film solar cell with the new Kesterite absorber layer.
The Kesterite solar cells were developed at the Zentrum für Sonnenenergie- und Wasserstoff-Forschung Baden-Württemberg (Centre for Solar Energy and Hydrogen Research Baden-Württemberg, ZSW)  in collaboration with researchers at the Karlsruhe Institute for Technology (KIT).

A team of researchers at the Zentrum für Sonnenenergie- und Wasserstoff-Forschung Baden-Württemberg (Centre for Solar Energy and Hydrogen Research Baden-Württemberg, ZSW) has developed a simplified production process for Kesterite thin-film solar cells. The absorber layer of the new cells contains tin and zinc, two readily available and inexpensive materials. The top-performing cell reaches an efficiency of 10.3% – a new European record.The Stuttgart-based research institute broke through the 10-percent efficiency threshold for Kesterite solar cells in October. The new value is close to the US world record of 11.1% - that cell, however, was manufactured in a more complicated process. At 0.5 square centimetres, the ZSW solar cell has the standard experimental cell size.

The value has been confirmed by the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE. “The new compound is similar to CIGS, however, instead of indium and gallium, it contains the abundantly  available elements tin and zinc,” reports Prof. Dr. Michael Powalla, ZSW Board Member and Head of the Photovoltaics Division. Thanks to the new material, the production method, which involves a simple printing process, is less expensive and less complex: “During the Kesterite solar cell manufacturing process, substrate glass is coated with a non-toxic ink solution containing the preferred elements – without requiring any complex vacuum technology.” The resulting precursor layer is subsequently selenised in a heating process. The remaining production process involves the same methods as the related CIGS technology. However, according to the ZSW, Kesterite cells are not yet ready for commercial application.

The Kesterite solar cells were developed at ZSW in collaboration with researchers at the Karlsruhe Institute for Technology (KIT). The Karlsruhe School of Optics & Photonics (KSOP) is also supporting the work through a PhD scholarship. The PhD student, Thomas Schnabel, has won this year’s KSOP Publication Award in the solar energy research area. The ZSW has been collaborating for years with the KSOP and KIT’s Center for Functional Nanostructures (CFN).

 

 
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