This Small Business Innovation Research Phase I project is focused on the development of a real-time optical monitoring technology able to reduce waste and improve the manufacturing yield and the conversion efficiency of the thin film solar cells and panels. It has specific benefits for the large-size solar panels, which are manufactured at higher cost today due to insufficient manufacturing yield. The proposed technology will improve the quality of the solar cells and panels and will reduce the time it takes for solar panels to reach grid parity with traditional energy sources. It will increase the cost effectiveness of the solar energy compared to the traditional carbon-based sources of energy. The proposed technology provides a platform solution that can be further improved in order to achieve waste-free thin film manufacturing with little human interaction. It will help reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions needed for the new green economy.
The focus of this program is the development of the prototype and more specifically the main hardware module and the software module which operates the control system. The hardware module consists of a number of light emitting, detection and processing units with specific parameters and tolerances. The signal received from the measured panels is processes by the software module in order to obtain real time values of the film uniformity over the entire area of the panel, as well as the homogeneity of the deposited films over the constantly moving panel. The system provides immediate process correction, improving film quality and narrowing material property distribution.
The proposed technology will also facilitate the development of numerous other applications for next generation thin film based products such as photonic crystals, nanotechnology, meta-materials, multi-junction solar cells, printing and counterfeiting control.