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Solar Energy Research Facility

Photovoltaics and basic energy sciences are two major areas of research conducted in the Solar Energy Research Facility.

Aerial photo of the Solar Energy Research Facility

The facility enables advanced material synthesis for silicon, perovskite, quantum dot, and ultrahigh efficiency III-V multijunction solar cells. A variety of equipment and expertise enables research on diverse contacts, window layers, encapsulants, and packaging solutions. In addition, this facility houses state-of-the-art characterization, computational research, and basic science studies.

Capabilities

Altogether, the Solar Energy Research Facility offers a breadth of capabilities and expertise for photovoltaics research.

Processes to make solar cells include molecular beam epitaxy, metalorganic vapor transport deposition, thermal evaporation, and physical vapor deposition. Chemical (wet) processes are used to develop quantum dot, perovskite, and other materials for next-generation technologies. The facility also has clean room, photolithography, metallization, and other support facilities.

Characterization includes state-of-the-art laser spectroscopy to measure carrier kinetics and recombination at time scales as fast as 10-14 s. Other techniques can examine structural and electronic defects across different spatial dimensions and resolve transport at the scale of microns. For example, the facility includes transmission electron microscopy with spatial resolution less than 10-9 m, so individual atomic columns can be resolved. Defects and transport on the order of microns can be resolved using methods such as cathodoluminescence, electron-beam induced current, and scanning photoluminescence. Other characterization includes dynamic and time-of-flight secondary ion mass spectrometry to resolve the distribution of elements and dopants in solar cell materials.

Computational studies include access to NREL’s Peregrine supercomputer, examining fundamental semiconductor physics and defect properties, computational device analysis, and investigating the attributes of thousands of potential material compounds yet to be studied in laboratories.

The Solar Energy Research Facility also houses NREL's independent cell certification laboratory for multijunction, bifacial, and single-junction solar cells.