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Thin-Film Material Science and Processing

Photo of a stainless steel piece of equipment with multiple hoses and other equipment attached.

NREL's expertise focuses on using thin films to create and enable technologically useful applications. For renewable energy, a prime example of this research is thin-film photovoltaics (PV).

Thin films are important because they offer the potential for low-cost processing with minimal material usage while fulfilling application requirements. Importantly, this can enable cost-effective applications for expensive raw source materials. Thin films also can enable applications where low weight and mechanical flexibility are crucial.

Capabilities


Cadmium Telluride PV

An image of a cross-sectional transmission electron microscope image of cadmium telluride thin film, showing from top to bottom: glass, transparent conducting oxide (thin layer), cadmium sulfide (thin layer), cadmium telluride (very thick layer), and back contact (layer with irregular interface).  Scale bar on image is five micrometers.

Our capabilities and expertise in cadmium telluride (CdTe) PV consist of polycrystalline films deposition and device processing including buffer layers, transparent conducting oxides and contact materials, epitaxial film growth and device processing, CdTe doping expertise, and deposition onto flexible substrates.

Contact: Wyatt Metzger| Email | 303-384-7613


Copper Indium Gallium Selenide PV

Our capabilities and expertise in copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS) PV consist of polycrystalline films deposition and device processing including buffer layers, transparent conducting oxides and contact materials, deposition onto flexible lightweight substrates, and large-area (6"x6") deposition.

Contact: Lorelle Mansfield | Email | 303-384-7884


Atmospheric Processing Platform Capabilities

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At the Process Development and Integration Laboratory, the Atmospheric Processing Platform (APP) offers powerful capabilities with integrated tools to deposit, process, and characterize PV materials and devices. Different methods are used to deposit ("write") materials onto a variety of substrates, which are then further processed using rapid thermal processing. What is unique about the APP is that these processes are performed at atmospheric pressure, without the requirement for expensive vacuum equipment.

Contact: Maikel van Hest | Email | 303-384-6651


Vapor Barrier Diffusion Measurements

A photo of a glass square held between two fingers. The glass has a pattern of metal contacts that make up a special electrical circuit. This device represents an electrical calcium test glass card used to measure vapor-barrier permeation rates.

Barriers to oxygen and moisture are critical packaging components for a wide variety of industries. The requirements of each application vary significantly, with differing needs for cost and permeation rates. We have developed a quantitative high-throughput technique that can measure many barriers in parallel with unsurpassed sensitivity.

Contact: Matthew Reese | Email | 303-384-7838


Material Characterization with X-Rays

Our X-ray capabilities include X-ray diffraction (XRD) and X-ray fluorescence (XRF) characterization. Associated capabilities are a hot stage for XRD, mapping capabilities for XRD and XRF, and micro-XRF mapping.

Contact: Philip Parilla | Email | 303-384-6506


Contact

Photo of Phil Parilla

Phil Parilla

Group Manager

Dr. Parilla is the manager of the Thin-Film Material Science and Processing Group.

Email | 303-384-6506


The Materials Science Center is part of the Materials and Chemical Science and Technology directorate, led by Associate Lab Director Bill Tumas.