Research projects

DOE Awards $3 Million for Innovative Solar Photovoltaic Research Projects

The U.S. Department of Energy has selected 19 projects (9 CSP, 10 PV), with total funding of $6 million, that will pursue innovative, targeted, early-stage research and development ideas. solar energy. The projects were selected under the Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) 2022 Small Innovative Projects in Solar (SIPS) funding program. SIPS projects focus on new, high-risk, or high-impact ideas that can produce significant results within the first year of performance, quickly validating new concepts and laying the foundation for continued research. SIPS is an ongoing SETO program that has funded over 100 projects since its launch in 2015.

The SIPS program is also designed to increase the diversity of clean energy researchers by streamlining the application process and encouraging applications from researchers who have never applied or been selected for a SETO award. Of the 19 recipients, 15 are first-time principal investigators on a SETO-funded project.

“Bringing new researchers into the DOE ecosystem with their bold and innovative ideas is an incredibly successful way to advance our clean energy work and unlock incremental improvements,” said Kelly Speakes-Backman, Principal Assistant Undersecretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. “I look forward to seeing the knowledge and technological advances that will come from these new solar projects.”

Projects were rewarded in two fields of solar energy research: PV and concentrated solar thermal energy (see the CSP winners here). Photovoltaic projects will improve the efficiency of energy conversion, energy production, reuse and recycling processes, lifespan and manufacturability of photovoltaic technologies. The following organizations have been selected to receive the PV SIPS awards:

Arizona State University (Tempe, Arizona)
Name of the project: Planar transformer systems for modular power electronics in low cost long distance PV systems
DOE Reward Amount: $300,000
Project summary: This project team will design new power electronic converters to connect solar PV systems to the grid that are modular and redundant. The new converters will be smaller than current devices, easy to repair and upgrade, and manufactured using methods and materials less sensitive to changes in the supply chain. This will extend operational life while maintaining high performance in photovoltaic systems.

Argonne National Laboratory (Lemont, Illinois)
Name of the project: Solar-Leap: a democratized tool to manage the long-term impact of environmental and operational conditions on asset performance degradation
DOE Reward Amount: $300,000
Project summary: This project will develop tools to analyze and accurately predict the long-term reliability of PV modules in different extreme climates and related stress conditions. Current tools only use small data sets or laboratory experiments, which may be less accurate in predicting real-world, long-term performance of PV modules. New tools developed by the project team will use sensor data and maintenance records from a large fleet of PV modules to more accurately determine the effects of field conditions and develop strategies to mitigate these negative effects. . The team will work closely with members of the PV industry – with a particular focus on minority-owned businesses and businesses in under-resourced communities – to gather feedback and demonstrate the impact of the tool. on the operations and maintenance of their photovoltaic assets.

Case Western Reserve University (Cleveland, Ohio)
Name of the project: Accelerating learning cycles of advanced silicon architectures: cell processing approaches and their effect on degradation mechanisms
DOE Reward Amount: $300,000
Project summary: This project will develop a process that can quickly predict the performance and durability of new materials for silicon p-type cells without having to fully optimize the new device first. This will save research time and effort by identifying new silicon PV cell designs that have the best potential for achieving both high efficiency and long operational lifetimes. The process will examine a wide range of factors that can affect device performance, from the stability of the silicon material itself to accelerated aging testing of module components in different climates, to develop these predictions.

University of Alabama (Tuscaloosa, Alabama)
Name of the project: Engineering fully inorganic perovskite absorber precursors and fast photon annealing for highly stable large area perovskite solar modules
DOE Reward Amount: $300,000
Project summary: This project will enable high-speed printing of perovskite solar cells using a newly modified perovskite material and innovative processing techniques. This method will help overcome current barriers to perovskite cell fabrication, such as instability and long processing times. The team will use a perovskite material in which organic molecules are replaced by inorganic elements to increase its stability, and combine it with outer layers made of metal oxides to provide physical protection and improve the transfer of electricity out of the module. These will then be used to make modules from a liquid solution through a process called slot die coating, which can be scaled up for use in a high-speed manufacturing line. The team will aim to fabricate mini-modules with power conversion efficiencies above 20%. This combination of new materials and techniques has the potential to provide stable, low-cost perovskite photovoltaic modules.

University of Arizona (Tucson, Arizona)
Name of the project: Advanced Development and Stability of Perovskite Solar Cells Using Online Electrochemical Methodologies
DOE Reward Amount: $300,000
Project summary: This project will develop an instrument to test perovskite photovoltaic cells for defects or degradation that can be integrated into a high-throughput manufacturing line. This will provide a low-cost and highly scalable method to understand the impact of different materials and fabrication methods on the stability of perovskite PV cells and enable extensive perovskite PV fabrication.

University of Connecticut (Storrs, Connecticut)
Name of the project: Performance Evaluation of Photovoltaic Panels Using Impedance Spectroscopy
DOE Reward Amount: $300,000
Project summary: This project will develop a tool capable of analyzing PV modules during operation. The tool will measure how the output power and lifetime of PV modules are affected by different light intensities, material-level characteristics like defects, impurities and mechanical properties, and module-level characteristics like electrical connectors.

University of Delaware (Newark, Delaware)
Name of the project: In situ hydrogen microstructural characterization of silicon heterojunction passivation: treatment of open-circuit voltage degradation and attenuation pathways
DOE Reward Amount: $300,000
Project summary: This project will develop a method to measure microstructural changes in the silicon layer of PV modules during accelerated thermal and light stress tests, which are designed to predict the operational lifetime of modules. The project team will focus on a particular type of silicon PV cells that have thin layers of silicon with added hydrogen to alter the electrical properties. These layers increase the efficiency of PV cells, but can decrease the stability of the material. This new method will measure how hydrogen responds to accelerated lifetime testing and use this information to develop mitigation strategies and enable operational lifetimes of 30-50 years for silicon heterojunction PV cells.

University of Hawaii at Manoa (Honolulu, Hawaii)
Name of the project: Monolithic encapsulation of perovskite solar cells with transparent conductive composites for long-term stability
DOE Reward Amount: $300,000
Project summary: This project team will investigate a new sealing material for use as a protective outer layer on perovskite photovoltaic cells. Most sealants used today must be applied at high temperatures, which can break down the perovskite material. This new material could be applied at room temperature. The new material could also replace glass in cells where glass is used as a protective layer, thereby lowering the cost of these modules.

University of Virginia (Charlottesville, Virginia)
Name of the project: High efficiency recycled silicon solar cells
DOE Reward Amount: $250,000
Project summary: This project will investigate new cost-effective and environmentally friendly methods to recycle metallic silver used in silicon PV modules. The silver used for the electrical contacts in silicon solar cells is one of the most expensive components and is currently recovered from old or broken silicon solar cells using nitric acid – a technique that can be harmful to the environment and inefficient. This project will use a new method called laser ablation to remove silicon from PV modules by converting them into small particles. Laser ablation is a low environmental impact process that provides a higher yield of recycled silver, and the silver particles recovered during the process can be directly used in the manufacture of new silicon modules.

Uriel Solar (Westlake Village, CA)
Name of the project: Investigations of single crystal cadmium telluride on silicon to enable future photovoltaic devices
DOE Reward Amount: $300,000
Project summary: This project will develop methods to add high quality layers of cadmium telluride on silicon in photovoltaic cells. These layers have the potential for significantly higher power conversion efficiency than silicon-only or cadmium telluride-only PV cells, but adding this layer can be difficult. This team will analyze and optimize methods of adding the cadmium telluride layer to maximize stability, efficiency and ease of fabrication.

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