Grant for solar cell work

December 19, 2007

The U.S. Department of Energy has awarded a grant of up to $768,000 over three years to Adam Moule, assistant professor of chemical engineering and materials science at UC Davis, for work toward cheaper, more efficient solar cells.

The award is part of a $21 million package of grants announced by the federal agency on Nov. 8. Part of the Solar America Initiative, the funds are directed at a "new generation" of solar power devices that could be developed into a prototype by 2015.

Current technology for photovoltaic cells is close to its maximum efficiency, Moule said, but remains more expensive per unit power output than other energy sources. The aim of new technologies is to get the same power for lower costs.

Moule is studying ways to assemble thin layers of organic polymers -- essentially, plastics -- into a flexible panel, similar to a laminated poster.

Polymers that generate electricity from sunlight are available, but they have to be dissolved in a solvent to be sprayed or printed onto a surface. Adding a second layer involves dissolving more of the polymer in the same solvent -- which would affect the first layer.

Moule is developing a method to deposit a series of very thin layers using a temporary, removable protective layer. He will also use computer modeling to study the effect of adding multiple thin layers to the device. If the technique is successful, Moule expects to produce simple two-layer devices within 18 months to two years.

University of California - Davis

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