Microwave ovens may help produce lower cost solar energy technology

August 24, 2012

(Phys.org)—The same type of microwave oven technology that most people use to heat up leftover food has found an important application in the solar energy industry, providing a new way to make thin-film photovoltaic products with less energy, expense and environmental concerns.

Engineers at Oregon State University have for the first time developed a way to use microwave heating in the synthesis of copper zinc tin sulfide, a promising solar cell compound that is less costly and toxic than some solar .

The findings were published in Physica Status Solidi A, a professional journal.

"All of the elements used in this new compound are benign and inexpensive, and should have good solar cell performance," said Greg Herman, an associate professor in the School of Chemical, Biological and Environmental Engineering at OSU.

"Several companies are already moving in this direction as prices continue to rise for some alternative compounds that contain more expensive elements like indium," he said. "With some improvements in its solar efficiency this new compound should become very commercially attractive."

These thin-film photovoltaic technologies offer a low cost, high volume approach to manufacturing . A new approach is to create them as an ink composed of nanoparticles, which could be rolled or sprayed – by approaches such as old-fashioned – to create solar cells.

To further streamline that process, researchers have now succeeded in using , instead of conventional heating, to reduce reaction times to minutes or seconds, and allow for great control over the production process. This "one-pot" synthesis is fast, cheap and uses less energy, researchers say, and has been utilized to successfully create nanoparticle inks that were used to fabricate a .

"This approach should save money, work well and be easier to scale up at commercial levels, compared to traditional synthetic methods," Herman said. "Microwave technology offers more precise control over heat and energy to achieve the desired reactions."

Explore further: Sharp to Begin Mass-Production of Thin-Film Photovoltaic Modules

Related Stories

Honda to Mass Produce Next-Generation Thin Film Solar Cell

December 19, 2005

Honda announced its plan to begin mass production in 2007, of an independently developed thin film solar cell composed of non-silicon compound materials, which requires 50% less energy, and thus generate 50% less CO2, during ...

IBM develops promising contender for cheaper solar cells

February 11, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- Solar cells could make fossil fuels virtually redundant if they were cheaper, but their use of rare elements and complex manufacturing processes makes them expensive. Now IBM Research has developed a prototype ...

Advance made in thin-film solar cell technology

April 20, 2010

Researchers have made an important breakthrough in the use of continuous flow microreactors to produce thin film absorbers for solar cells - an innovative technology that could significantly reduce the cost of solar energy ...

Recommended for you

Tipster talks about Google's Project Soli kit invites

August 31, 2015

Google has its eyes on a future of radar-based technology for hand gestures with wearables, and to a future where you can interact with wearable technology without adding physical controls such as buttons. Your fingers can ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.