MolES researchers dig for energy solutions through NSF SEP grant

Filed Under: CleantechNews

A diverse group of UW collaborators seeking to determine whether solar cells from earth-abundant elements can be a sustainable, environmentally low-impact, and profitable form of electricity production were awarded an Sustainable Energy Pathways grant from the National Science Foundation this fall. Led by Rehnberg Chair Professor Hugh Hillhouse the team, which includes Christine Luscombe (MolES/Materials Science & Engineering), Daniel Gamelin (MolES/Chemistry), Alison Cullen (Evans School of Public Affairs), and Xiaodong Xu (Materials Science & Engineering), will explore the use of nanocrystal and molecular inks to develop low-cost, high-efficiency solar cells with a benign environmental impact.

Based on crustal abundance of the elements, mineral production rates, material costs, materials chemistry, manufacturability, and potential for high photovoltaic power conversion efficiency, copper zinc tin sulfide (CZTS) is perhaps the most promising candidate material for low-cost terawatt-scale solar cell manufacturing.  The research will lay the foundation for increased sunlight-to-electricity conversion efficiency for CZTS solar cells and enable a new sustainable energy pathway. The group will conduct a rigorous life-cycle assessment to avoid indirect market effects that have plagued other large-scale energy production routes and will focus on chemical routes to solar-cell manufacturing that are environmentally benign. To enable high-efficiency device performance, the team will develop surface and interface passivation strategies along with novel replacements for the front buffer-layer and back contact. If successful, these approaches will significantly boost the voltages of the devices, resulting in power conversion efficiencies that would make mass manufacturing economically lucrative.

The four-year grant, “Sustainable Pathway to Terawatt-Scale Solution-Processed Solar Cells from Earth Abundant Elements,” will receive $1.9M of funding beginning this fall.

Learn more:

Finding New Paths Forward for Sustainable Energy (NSF) ›

Hillhouse, UW collaborators dig for energy solutions through NSF SEP grant (Chemical Engineering) ›