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New Materials for Solar Cells

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    Scientists at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) intend to develop a fundamentally new solar cell concept in the project "Innovative liquid-applied ceramic solar cells" (KeraSolar). They combine research on photovoltaics with ceramic functional materials in order to bundle the advantages of different solar cell technologies: The printability of organic solar cells and the long-term stability of crystalline solar cells as well as the ferroelectricity of the lead halide perovskite.

    One of the most important cornerstones of the future CO2-neutral energy supply is solar energy. Solar cells can collect this energy and convert it into usable electrical energy. Over the next six years, KIT researchers will be working on a completely new material concept for solar cells in the KeraSolar project on "Innovative liquid-applied ceramic solar cells" funded by the Carl Zeiss Foundation with 4.5 million euros.

    New functional materials are manufactured from ceramic materials that promise exceptionally good robustness and long-term durability. However, modern solar cells must have far more properties: They must be freely shapeable and integrable in order to transform virtually any surface into solar power plants. Their production must consume as little energy as possible, the manufacturing processes should be free of toxic substances and the necessary raw materials should be available in sufficient amounts. This is precisely where the advantages of ceramic functional materials come in: they offer almost infinite possibilities for combining elements and compounds and thus achieve tailor-made material properties. This opens up a large new field of research for the project team.

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    Figure 1 German Scientists intend to develop a fundamentally new solar cell concept in the project "Innovative liquid-applied ceramic solar cells". They combine research on photovoltaics with ceramic functional materials. (© Markus Breig/KIT)

    The project is located at KIT's Material Research Center for Energy Systems (MZE), whose program is oriented towards the major research topics related to energy conversion and storage. "We are pleased that the MZE has developed into a showcase project of modern, multidisciplinary materials research within a very short time, and that its achievements are recognized and sustainably supported by KeraSolar," says Professor Michael J. Hoffmann, one of the initiators of the MZE. "We are very pleased about the six-year funding from the Carl Zeiss Foundation."

    About half of the sixteen working groups from various scientific disciplines located at the MZE will participate in the project and contribute their expertise from electrical engineering, materials science, physics and chemistry. They combine experimental approaches with theoretical considerations. "Thanks to the scientists from completely different disciplines and backgrounds, it is possible for us to set up such a challenging research project," says Dr. Alexander Colsmann. Together with Michael J. Hoffmann, he is coordinating the new project. A new experimental platform set up specifically for the "KeraSolar" project team will help to shape KIT's solar cell research in the long term.

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    New Materials for Solar Cells. Interceram. - Int. Ceram. Rev. 69, 18 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s42411-019-0069-9

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