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Proceedings Paper

Commercial Development Of Ovonic Thin Film Solar Cells
Author(s): Stanford R. Ovshinsky
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Paper Abstract

One square foot Ovonic amorphous photovoltaic devices are already in commercial production and are manufactured through a continuous web process. The next levels of commercialization required to achieve a large-volume power market will be discussed, and the device specifications correlated with the chemical and electronic properties of the materials that we are developing to achieve even higher efficiencies. It has been long considered a utopian dream to harness the energy of the sun to create electricity that would be competitive in cost to that produced from the conventional sources of energy such as oil, gas, and uranium. The impact on our society of stand-alone power generators without moving parts using the continually available, ubiquitous energy of the sun could certainly lead to a new age with consequences comparable to the first introduction of electricity which greatly accelerated the Industrial Revolution. Low cost, nonpolluting energy not dependent upon or limited by transmission costs could again make DC electricity a realistic option. The relatively young field of photovoltaics suffers from certain dogmas that are just now being questioned. For example, it is thought by many that solar cells utilizing crys-talline materials have inherently higher efficiencies than those using amorphous materials, and that somehow crystalline solar cells, whether fabricated from single crystals or polycrystalline material, in round or rectangular geometries, grown from the melt or by a rib-bon process, can be reduced in cost sufficiently that the economics become attractive enough for large-scale terrestrial generation of power. In this paper, we shall show that amorphous materials can have much higher efficiencies than do crystalline and that the answer to our power generation needs lies not in crystalline but in amorphous technology. At Energy Conversion Devices, Inc. (ECD), we have designed and built a production machine (described by my colleague, Dr. Izu, in a subsequent paper) which has clearly demonstrated that the basic barrier to low-cost production has been broken through and that one can now speak realistically of delivering power directly from the sun for under a dollar per peak watt merely by making larger versions of this basic continuous web, large-area thin-film machine. We have made one square foot amorphous silicon alloy PIN devices with conversion efficiencies in the range of 7%, and in the laboratory, we have reported smaller area PIN de-vices in the 10% conversion efficiency range. In addition, much higher energy conversion efficiencies can be obtained within the same process by using multi-cell layered or tandem thin-film solar cell structures (see Figure 1). These devices exhibit enhanced efficiency by utilizing a wider range of the solar spectrum. Since the theoretical maximum efficiency for multi-cell structures is over 60%, one can certainly realistically anticipate the pro-duction of thin-film amorphous photovoltaic devices with efficiencies as high as 30%. Our production device is already a two-cell tandem, as we have solved not only the problems of interfacing the individual cell components but also the difficulties associated with a one foot square format deposited on a continuous web. Figure 2 shows a continuous roll of Ovonic solar cells. Realistic calculations for a three-cell tandem thin-film device using amorphous semiconductor alloys with 1.8eV, 1.5eV, and 1.0eV optical band gaps indicate that solar energy conversion efficiencies of 20-30% can be achieved.

Paper Details

Date Published: 8 September 1983
PDF: 4 pages
Proc. SPIE 0407, Photovoltaics for Solar Energy Applications II, (8 September 1983); doi: 10.1117/12.935679
Show Author Affiliations
Stanford R. Ovshinsky, Energy Conversion Devices, Inc. (United States)

Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 0407:
Photovoltaics for Solar Energy Applications II
David Adler, Editor(s)

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