PROJECT PROFILE: South Dakota School of Mines and Technology (PVRD-SIPS)

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Project Name: Aluminum Epilayers for Controlled Growth and Processing of High-Efficiency, Low-Cost III-V Solar Cells
Funding Opportunity: PVRD-SIPS
SETO Subprogram: Photovoltaics
Location: Rapid City, SD
Award Amount: $179,003
Awardee Cost Share: $26,356
Project Investigator: Phil Ahrenkiel

This project utilizes a crystalline aluminum sacrificial layer in the epitaxial growth of lattice matched III-V absorber materials for substrate reuse. The aluminum layer will then be quickly and inexpensively removed, resulting in thin film III-V growth from reusable substrates. It is anticipated that this demonstration would dramatically reduce the cost of III-V based solar cells.

Approach

The research team will examine the microstructures of the thin film solar cells and refine growth procedures to optimize crystal texture and morphology. Next, the team will grow indium gallium arsenide (GaInAs) double heterostructures grown on these aluminum buffers to investigate the resulting minority-carrier recombination lifetimes. The research will be performed using existing device-processing, electron-microscopy, and optoelectronic-characterization capabilities.

Innovation

The project will culminate in the fabrication of single-junction GaInAs solar cells using the aluminum/III-V substrates. This work opens up development of aluminum as a substrate material, as it is responsive to a range of manufacturing and processing methods, including roll-to-roll semiconductor deposition for mass production. If the research is successful, it will lead to the fabrication of solar cells on thin, flexible, and lightweight aluminum ribbons or sheets, which have the potential to be transferred to glass and integrated into windows in residential or commercial buildings.