The results of the NextBase international project, with the participation of scientists from the Instite of Physics, have brought hope for the restoration of European competitiveness in the production of solar panels. The project has developed prototypes of solar cell with high efficiency and low-cost potential. Three year’s research by a team of 14 partners from eight countries was supported by the European Commission as part of Horizon 2020.
“The solar cell efficiency of 25.4 % has been achieved, which means coming close to the current world record (26.7 %). Even more importantly, the cells were made by technology ready for automated serial production,” Antonín Fejfar, a co-investigator of the NextBase project, summarises.
The project has innovated heterojunction photovoltaic cells in which the positive and negative electrodes are prepared on a silicon crystal wafer by depositing strips (finger shapes) of amorphous silicon only a few nanometres thin. For a long time, a practical tool to verify the quality of these contacts was not available. A method of verification was developed by Martin Ledinský at the FZU who explained it in the following words: “All the partners intensively used our optical profilometry based on Raman spectroscopy in the optimization process of developed solar cells.”
The method of contact checking was identified as one of the three key exploitable results of the project by the European Commission. During the project, moreover, the time of measurement was shortened from hours to seconds, and thus it can also be used in real time on production lines. The revolutionary solution, for which a patent application has been filed, was presented on behalf of the team by Roman Dvořák (student) at the final meeting attracting interest of Meyer Burger representatives.
Meyer Burger was one of the key industrial partners of the NextBase project and most recently the company has publicly announced its intention to launch a new production of these cells in Europe, with the aim of commissioning a 1 GW annual production capacity within 2 years. Another industrial partner in the project, Italian Enel, launched prototype production in Sicily last year, currently with the capacity of 0.2 GW.
The NextBase project has thus brought a competitive advantage which makes it possible to restart production of photovoltaic panels in Europe and thus addresses a paradoxical situation when Europe plans to produce at least 30% of electricity from renewable sources by 2030, but imports the vast majority of solar panels from Southeast Asia.
RNDr. Antonín Fejfar, CSc., Institute of Physics of the Czech Academy of Sciences
E-mail: fejfar [at] fzu [dot] cz
RNDr. Martin Ledinský, Ph.D., Institute of Physics of the Czech Academy of Sciences
E-mail: ledinsky [at] fzu [dot] cz