Skip navigation to main content.
NREL - National Renewable Energy Laboratory
About NRELEnergy AnalysisScience and TechnologyTechnology TransferTechnology DeploymentEnergy Systems Integration

Process Development and Integration Approach

The research approach used within the Process Development and Integration Laboratory integrates all the tools, all the data, and all the materials used in developing, studying, and manufacturing photovoltaic devices. Here, we summarize some key benefits of this integration. Elsewhere, you can view a video illustrating this approach and see what design features make it all possible.

Integrating the Tools—By tools, we mean the cluster tools that bring together various techniques for deposition, processing, and characterization. A remarkable number and variety of research capabilities are available through these tools. The integration of tools allows us to

  • Sequence any number of deposition, processing, and measurement steps, and in any order.
  • Protect samples from deleterious exposure to air between processing steps and during measurements and characterization studies.
  • Incorporate combinatorial techniques, when appropriate.

Integrating the Data—Projects within the Process Development and Integration Laboratory are based on well-designed scientific experiments. Applying the process integration approach to these experiments potentially generates huge quantities of data. The integration of data allows us to

  • Readily convert data into knowledge by implementing the full scientific cycle—from establishing conjectures; to fabricating, processing, and measuring devices; to analyzing or interpreting data; to learning about and reporting results.
  • Automate control of deposition, processing, and measurements, thus increasing sample throughput and process repeatability.
  • Make the entire history of samples available to collaborators, while ensuring the security of proprietary data.
  • Facilitate sophisticated data mining and multidimensional visualization software.

Integrating the Materials—We can learn much about one particular material, such as a semiconductor, metal, or transparent conducting oxide. But within the process development and integration approach, this knowledge can potentially be transferred to other material systems to leverage our understanding. The integration of materials allows us to

  • Readily incorporate new materials developed in one cluster tool into structures grown on other cluster tools.
  • Expand device design beyond the limits of existing technology equipment sets.
  • Foster interactions of experts from various materials and characterization areas to address specific questions synergistically.
The scientific knowledge cycle is shown as a circular flow, starting with "conjecture," then moving clockwise around the circle to "fabricate," "process," "measure," "analyze," "interpret," "learn," "report," before leading back to "conjecture." The PDIL approach integrates three items: (1) materials—as indicated by a box around the fabricate and process steps—which relates to transparent conducting oxides, metals, and semiconductors; (2) tools—as indicated by a box around the fabricate, process, and measure steps—which relates to deposition, processing, and measurements and characterization; and (3) data—as indicated by a box around all eight steps—which relates to recipes, instrumentation, results, data mining, and modeling.

The process development and integration approach—which integrates information relating to the tools, data, and materials within the PDIL—correlates with the cycle of scientific knowledge.

Contact Kaitlyn VanSant for more information on the Process Development and Integration Laboratory. You can also read a short brochure on the PDIL.