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Lab Report: New Printing Process Helps Scale Solar Tech

Jul 01, 2022   |   by Julie Bonette   |   Dartmouth Engineer

Dartmouth engineers have developed the quickest reliable printing method for the manufacturing of perovskite solar cells, which can be used to efficiently harness and convert solar energy. The method may help scale the use of efficient solar technology such as electric vehicles.

The flexography method for high speed printing of lightweight perovskite solar cells. The accompanying Venn diagram shows technological benefits for manufacturing the charge transport layers critical in perovskite solar modules.

Metal halide perovskites—a new abundant absorber material with the most promise to increase global solar capacity—have slow production times that makes scaling difficult and increases manufacturing costs. The research team, led by Professor William Scheideler, has developed a method that can accelerate total processing time of solar charge transport layers (CTLs) by a factor of 60 while maintaining reliability.

“Our method prints the layers of the solar cell with the speed and efficiency of a commercial newspaper printing press,” says Scheideler. “This directly translates to lower cost per kWh, which will ultimately make solar energy more affordable for a larger population.” The team’s method pairs high-speed flexographic printing with rapidly annealed sol-gel inks. When compared to silicon photovoltaic production, this method is faster, more energy efficient, and requires less materials.

“An advantage of our process is that it can be used to print solar cell layers on flexible or rigid substrates, allowing for applications of solar energy that go beyond typical silicon solar panels,” says PhD candidate Julia Huddy.

“Eliminating the Perovskite Solar Cell Manufacturing Bottleneck via High-Speed Flexography” by Huddy, research associate Youxiong Ye, and Scheideler was recently published in Advanced Materials Technologies. “The impact of solar energy and its penetration into the electrical grid depend critically on the cost of manufacturing solar cells,” says Scheideler. “This is where innovation in the lab is still needed to accelerate the potential of renewable technologies.”

This article appeared in the Spring 2022 issue of the Dartmouth Engineer magazine.

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