Manufacturing extremely thin solar cells using sustainable materials and a 3D printer accurate down to the nanometre: that is the focus of research currently being carried out by Prof. Dr. Julien Bachmann, Chair ‘Chemistry of Thin Film Materials’ at FAU. He has now received an ERC Proof of Concept grant for his project. ERC Proof of Concept grants are awarded to researchers who have already received an ERC grant and are now at the stage of exploring potential economic or social benefits of their findings in practice. In his earlier research, Professor Bachmann was able to show the impact that the surface structure of semiconductors has on the efficiency of solar cells at the smallest level. With a high-resolution 3D printer that is accurate down to 0.000001 millimetres, he now hopes to systematically test which surface structure makes the semiconductor most efficient. This optimisation process is necessary if sustainable materials are to be used in the field of renewable energies.
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Why is this important?
It has been a big year for solar energy. California passed a mandate requiring solar panels on all new homes, and prices for solar cells continue to plummet. But even with these advances, there are still challenges to bringing solar energy into the mainstream. One of the biggest obstacles is manufacturing, it's expensive and time-consuming to produce traditional solar cells using high-temperature processes. But what if we could print them? Researchers have developed a way to print solar cells using ultra-high-resolution 3D printing, paving the way for low-cost, mass production of solar energy technology. If we are able to produce high-efficiency, low-cost solar panels without the need for an expensive solar panel factory, then this might be a massive breakthrough in building a more regenerative society.
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