Photovoltaic Research and Development (PVRD)

You are here

The Photovoltaic Research and Development (PVRD) funding program pushes the limits of power conversion efficiency, fielded energy output, service lifetime, and manufacturability of commercial and emerging PV technologies. PVRD is divided into single-year and multi-year projects. The Small Innovative Projects in Solar (SIPS) awards in PVRD are high-risk, single-year PV research and development projects that demonstrate the potential for expanded work in novel or emerging areas of PV research. The multi-year projects listed below are larger, collaborative projects with the potential to produce dramatic progress towards a solar levelized cost of energy (LCOE) of $0.02-0.03 per kilowatt hour by 2030. PVRD is one of the first funding opportunities in SunShot that looks to a post-2020 goal.

Projects under PVRD were launched on September 14, 2016. Read the press release. SIPS projects were announced in July 2016. A notice of intent to issue a funding opportunity announcement for Photovoltaic Research and Development 2 (PVRD2) was also announced. Learn more about the PVRD2 funding program.

Approach

The projects under PVRD will apply advances in the fundamental science of photovoltaic materials to improve cell and module performance, improve service lifetime, and reduce manufacturing costs. They also focus on advancing industrially-relevant PV technologies and have the potential to impact the market within five years.

Objectives

Improvements to nearly every aspect of cell design from grain boundary recombination and module design from layout geometry to choice of encapsulant can help to lower the cost of solar energy. By achieving a levelized cost of energy of $0.02-0.03 per kilowatt hour these projects will lay the groundwork for significantly increased deployment of solar energy.

Awardees

Arizona State University

Project Name: Solution for Predictive Physical Modeling in CdTe and Other Thin-Film PV Technologies
Location: Tempe, AZ
SunShot Award Amount: $812,998
Awardee Cost Share: $90,322
Principal Investigator: Dragica Vasileska
Project Summary: This project aims to develop a software tool to enable a more accurate interpretation of cadmium telluride (CdTe) thin-film photovoltaic (PV) device performance and material properties, with the goal of enabling predictive device design. The software includes a modeling tool that accounts for atomic diffusion and drift as well as electronic behavior and device performance. This will allow researchers to simulate recombination losses over time in II-VI absorber materials under specified process and stress conditions.

Arizona State University

Project Name: Monolithic Silicon Module Manufacturing at Under $0.40 per Watt
Location: Tempe, AZ
SunShot Award Amount: $800,000
Awardee Cost Share: $88,886
Principal Investigator: Zachary Holman
Project Summary: This project aims to lower the cost of photovoltaic (PV) electricity generation in fewer than five years to $0.04 per kilowatt hour through the development of a PV module that is based on back-contact silicon solar cells, which have interdigitated metal fingers on their rear sides and no metal on their front sides. The cells in this project will not have any metal; instead, they will be interconnected with a “flex-circuit” consisting of two layers of aluminum foil separated by an insulating spacer layer. This design reduces the amount of silver or copper used in modules and eliminates solder points that are prone to failure. This project will focus on cell interconnection, module assembly, module reliability testing, and techno-economic analysis.

Arizona State University

Project Name: Pushing the Limits of Silicon Heterojunction Solar Cells: Demonstration of 26% Efficiency and Improving Electrical Yield
Location: Tempe, AZ
SunShot Award Amount: $837,044
Awardee Cost Share: $92,991
Principal Investigator: Stuart Bowden
Project Summary: This project examines the manufacturability of n-type industrial silicon heterojunction cells and develops methods to improve energy yield and increase the attractiveness of this type of cell to manufacturers. The research performed will help to improve cell efficiency by 2% and reduce the cost of the cells by improving electrical yield based on a range of new processing improvements. The project also aims to demonstrate the feasibility of using thinner cells to increase the lifetime of the wafer and achieve a 26% record efficiency. The knowledge gleaned from this research is expected to help improve the manufacturing of silicon heterojunction cells in the near to mid-term.

Arizona State University

Project Name: Plant and Module Designs for Uniform and Reduced Operating Temperature
Location: Tempe, AZ
SunShot Award Amount: $899,316
Awardee Cost Share: $100,000
Principal Investigator: Govindasamy Tamizhmani
Project Summary: This project intends to identify and evaluate thermally conductive and radiative but electrically insulating backsheets, which can be confidently used by the photovoltaic module manufacturers in order to reduce future solar levelized cost of energy  values. Based on the typical temperature coefficients of standard multicrystalline modules, it is possible for conventional rooftop c-Si PV modules to lose as much as 30% of power and the open rack c-Si modules to lose as much as 20% power on hot summer days in sunny/desert locations. This project intends to reduce solar LCOE by lowering module operating temperatures, reducing reliability failures, and reducing degradation rates to improve system lifetimes.

Arizona State University

Project Name: 15%-Efficiency (Mg,Zn)CdTe Solar Cells with 1.7 eV Bandgap for Tandem Applications
Location: Tempe, AZ
SunShot Award Amount: $400,000
Awardee Cost Share: $44,455
Principal Investigator: Zachary Holman
Project Summary: This project aims to demonstrate solar cells based on wide bandgap cadmium telluride (CdTe) alloys that will eventually enable the fabrication of high efficiency tandem photovoltaic cells in combination with a silicon bottom cell. The PV market is dominated by silicon and CdTe technologies, which have become low-cost and reliable in the last decade but are nearing their individual efficiency limits. This project works to boost the eventual efficiency of PV systems by 35% by beginning the process of allowing CdTe and silicon to function together to efficiently harvest the solar spectrum, potentially enabling a 20% decrease in the cost of installed systems.

Arizona State University

Project Name: Defect Kinetics and Control for Module Reliability
Location: Tempe, AZ
SunShot Award Amount: $862,000
Awardee Cost Share: $100,000
Principal Investigator: Mariana Bertoni
Project Summary: This project is improving photovoltaic (PV) module reliability by developing a model to predict silicon module degradation. Once finalized, the modeling tool will evaluate the effects of sodium-induced degradation on materials in different operating conditions. The model will be able to evaluate the impact of a variety of contaminants, including potassium, though sodium is widely known to be responsible for major potential-induced degradation losses. The goal is to assist the selection and engineering of better encapsulation materials, dielectrics, contacting schemes, and device architectures based on the reliable performance of the device.

Colorado School of Mines

Project Name: New Approaches to Low-Cost Scalable Doping for Interdigitated Back Contact Crystalline Silicon Solar Cells
Location: Golden, CO
SunShot Award Amount: $615,000
Awardee Cost Share: $68,333
Principal Investigator: Sumit Agarwal
Project Summary: This project lowers the cost and reduces the complexity of manufacturing interdigitated back contact (IBC) mono-crystalline silicon solar cells, which provide a promising pathway to achieve $0.02-0.03 per kilowatt hour LCOE by 2030. Currently, these types of cells require patterned doping of the back contacts, which adds several additional steps compared to the more traditional front-grid architecture. The research team will develop a photo-assisted, area-selective chemical vapor deposition that is highly scalable for large-area manufacturing, thereby reducing costs.

Colorado State University

Project Name: Device Architecture for Next-Generation CdTe PV
Location: Fort Collins, CO
SunShot Award Amount: $899,922
Awardee Cost Share: $100,000
Principal Investigator: James Sites
Project Summary: This project is developing a novel solar cell architecture that will increase the voltage and energy output of thin-film polycrystalline CdTe solar cells and address the short lifetimes of photo-excited electrons in the cells. This new architecture should give the CdTe manufacturing community a novel, but highly realistic, approach for solving the voltage limitations of the CdTe technology. The resulting product will be compatible with solar-panel manufacturing at or below current cost structures.

Georgia Tech Research Corporation

Project Name: Pushing the Efficiency Limit of Low-Cost, Industrially-Relevant Silicon Solar Cells by Advancing Cell Structures and Technology Innovations
Location: Atlanta, GA
SunShot Award Amount: $1,125,000
Awardee Cost Share: $125,000
Principal Investigator: Ajeet Rohatgi
Project Summary: This project is advancing manufacturable silicon cell technologies to above 22% efficiency through the use of passivated selective emitter and selective back surface field (BSF) contact geometries. The improved contact and metallization methods investigated during the course of the project will reduce recombination and improve cell performance by up to 2% absolute efficiency. Multiple fabrication methodologies will be investigated to determine the most cost-effective method for producing the laterally patterned doping profiles needed to realize this high performance cell technology.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Project Name: Low Cost Tool Design for Cell and Module Fabrication with Thin, Free-Standing Silicon Wafers
Location: Cambridge, MA
SunShot Award Amount: $1,125,003
Awardee Cost Share: $131,276
Principal Investigator: Tonio Buonassisi
Project Summary: This project aims to reduce the barriers to inexpensive photovoltaic module manufacturing by de-risking key technology elements necessary to enable manufacturing with lower capital costs. The project team will focus its efforts on the tools needed to enable high yield wafer, cell, and module fabrication with thin, free-standing silicon wafers. Thin wafers dramatically reduce the amount of polysilicon required and increase growth-system productivity, thereby reducing the capital expenditures associated with silicon refining and wafer fabrication, which together are more than half of the total capital costs of silicon module manufacturing.

Ohio State University: Columbus Campus

Project Name: Tandem Solar Cells: Pathway to Low-Cost, High-Efficiency Photovoltaics
Location: Columbus, OH
SunShot Award Amount: $1,124,999
Awardee Cost Share: $179,286
Principal Investigator: Tyler Grassman
Project Summary: This project is developing a tandem solar cell with gallium arsenide phosphide (GaAsP) on silicon (Si) aimed at an efficiency of at least 30%. The cell will be produced using highly scalable and manufacturable processes, which will be accomplished through optimization of the current prototype cell, including the demonstration of innovative structures that are ideally suited for maximized Si-based tandem manufacturing. A mature GaAsP/Si tandem cell could then be manufactured at scale via existing Si and III-V tooling and infrastructure, greatly reducing capital expenditures and revitalizing existing manufacturing industries.

SRI International

Project Name: Continuous Silicon Reduction and Consolidation
Location: Menlo Park, CA
SunShot Award Amount: $900,000
Awardee Cost Share: $100,000
Principal Investigator: Jordi Perez
Project Summary: This project investigates a continuous silicon reduction and consolidation process to reduce the capital, material, and energy costs associated with producing high purity polysilicon. The new method will use low-cost precursors and has the capability to recycle silicon fines, which are a common waste product of fluidized bed reactors and wafer sawing. This technology has the capability of reducing module costs by up to 10% based on reducing the cost of the polysilicon feedstock used to grow silicon bricks and ingots.

Texas State University

Project Name: Crosscutting Recombination Metrology for Expediting Open-Circuit Voltage Engineering
Location: San Marcos, TX
SunShot Award Amount: $1,025,000
Awardee Cost Share: $232,107
Principal Investigator: Jian Li
Project Summary: This project is developing a comprehensive characterization methodology for extracting recombination rates in thin-film solar cells as a function of depth into the device. The advanced metrology methods developed as part of this project will ideally allow researchers and manufacturers to identify problem areas in their materials within a few dozen nanometers and correct their procedures accordingly. The proposed methodology will also allow for the viability of certain interfaces and contact structures to be examined at a greater level of detail than has previously been available based on existing optoelectronic methods.

University of Central Florida

Project Name: Enabling Efficiencies Greater than 22.5% with Metal Oxide Passivated Contacts Using Low-Cost In-Line Atmospheric Pressure Chemical Vapor Deposition
Location: Orlando, FL
SunShot Award Amount: $1,125,000
Awardee Cost Share: $125,000
Principal Investigator: Kris Davis
Project Summary: This project aims to increase module efficiency and reduce manufacturing costs by transferring lab-scale heterojunction passivated contact technology into the high-volume manufacturing of industrial-scale crystalline silicon (c-Si) cells. The target efficiency for these cells is 22.5%, which will create a lower cost alternative to cells currently on the market by reducing the wafer-to-cell conversion cost by 13% compared to today’s manufacturing methods.

University of Delaware

Project Name: Rapid Patterning and Advanced Device Structures for Low Cost Manufacturable Crystalline Silicon IBC Cells
Location: Newark, DE
SunShot Award Amount: $1,124,491
Awardee Cost Share: $125,084
Principal Investigator: Steven Hegedus
Project Summary: This project is developing a new method for the manufacturing of interdigitated back contact (IBC) solar cells with metal contacts on the backside of the wafer, which allows for greater light harvesting on the front surface due to the absence of grid shadowing. The new process will use direct laser patterning of the metal electrodes to isolate the positive and negative contacts, as well as laser firing of dopants to create localized contacts regions between the metal and the silicon wafer. The result will be a lower cost silicon manufacturing process and device structure that will lead to an IBC cell with 25% efficiency.

University of Delaware

Project Name: Improved Performance and Reliability of PV Modules using the Reaction of Metal Precursors
Location: Newark, DE
SunShot Award Amount: $800,000
Awardee Cost Share: $88,889
Principal Investigator: William Shafarman
Project Summary: This project is working to improve the performance and reliability of thin-film copper indium gallium sulfide selenide (CIGSS) cells. The team is developing innovative approaches to improve the deposition and device fabrication to provide a pathway to significant reduction in LCOE. By focusing on processes and materials with low manufacturing cost and that are already used in commercial production, the project expects to directly impact the market and advance CIGSS technology toward and beyond the SunShot 2020 goal of $0.06 per kilowatt hour LCOE.

University of Illinois at Chicago

Project Name: Improving Reliability and Reducing Cost in CdTe Photovoltaics via Grain Boundary Engineering
Location: Chicago, IL
SunShot Award Amount: $959,400
Awardee Cost Share: $169,736
Principal Investigator: Robert Klie
Project Summary: This project is developing an innovative approach to understand and eliminate the detrimental effects of grain boundaries in poly-crystalline thin-film CdTe solar cells. The project team will examine how grain boundaries play a role in limiting the open circuit voltage, performance, and reliability and leverage insight from fundamental atomic and electronic studies.

University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Project Name: Research and Development of Architectures for Photovoltaic Cell-Level Power Balancing Using Diffusion Charge Redistribution
Location: Ann Arbor, MI
SunShot Award Amount: $807,817
Awardee Cost Share: $84,450
Principal Investigator: Al-Thaddeus Avestruz
Project Summary: This project is conducting photovoltaic (PV) cell-level power balancing using diffusion charge redistribution to increase efficiency, lower manufacturing costs, and improve reliability, which will reduce the levelized cost of energy (LCOE) to $0.06 per kilowatt hour in the short term and $0.02 to $0.03 per kilowatt hour in the long-term. This work will enable cell-level power optimization and transform a string of solar cells into a single “super-cell” that eliminates cell imbalances, mismatches, and partial failures.

University of Nevada Las Vegas

Project Name: Metastability, Potential Induced Degradation, Damp Heat Degradation and Recovery in CIGS Devices: Effect of Alkali
Location: Las Vegas, NV
SunShot Award Amount: $900,403
Awardee Cost Share: $222,945
Principal Investigator: Shubhra Bansal
Project Summary: This project is working to understand degradation that occurs in copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS) solar cells. CIGS devices can suffer from degradation due to high temperatures, damp heat, or high system voltage. Developing a further understanding of why degradation occurs in these environments will allow scientists and engineers to develop CIGS products that are able to withstand these elements and have lower degradation rates, leading to a lower cost of solar energy.

Washington State University

Project Name: Developing a Low-Cost, High-Volume and Scalable Manufacturing Technology for CdTe Feedstock Materials
Location: Pullman, WA
SunShot Award Amount: $1,124,992
Awardee Cost Share: $130,093
Principal Investigator: Kelvin Lynn
Project Summary: This project is developing low-cost, high-volume, scalable CdTe feedstock production technology, which can be commercialized to deliver high quality feedstocks to industry at a reduced cost with rapid production rate. The material quality of feedstocks will be optimized to the needs of high efficiency solar panel production. A novel CdTe synthesis and growth process will be developed and scaled up, and the grown material will be evaluated with respect to defect structure, carrier lifetime, and unintentional impurities.

Stanford University

Project Name: Optimization of Concentrator Photovoltaic Solar Cell Performance Through Photonic Engineering
Location: Stanford, CA
SunShot Award Amount: $700,000
Awardee Cost Share: $98,795
Principal Investigator: James Harris
Project Summary: This project is focused on improving the design of concentrator photovoltaics (CPV) technology, which uses lenses and curved mirrors to focus sunlight onto small, highly efficient multi-junction solar cells. The new module under development aims to increase efficiency and reduce power loss that happens from heating and exposure to different spectra of light. The new design concepts would not create additional costs for the modules and will significantly increase the operational efficiency of CPV modules by 3-4% and enable CPV systems to approach a levelized cost of energy of $0.06 per kilowatt hour.

Learn more about the SunShot Initiative's other photovoltaic funding programs.