Imec announces that it
has started work, together with its project partners, on PRIMA, a project under
the EU's 7th framework program for ICT (FP7). The project's goal
is to improve the efficiency and cost of solar cells though the use of metallic
nanostructures. Next to imec, the project coordinator, the partners involved
in PRIMA are Imperial College (London, UK), Chalmers University of Technology
(Sweden), Photovoltech (Belgium), Quantasol (UK) and Australian National University
Certain nanostructured metallic surfaces show unique characteristics: they
can absorb and intensify light at specific wavelengths. This is because the
incoming light results in a collective oscillation of the electrons at the metal's
surface. This phenomenon, studied under the name plasmonics, has many promising
applications. It can be exploited to transmit optical signals through nanosized
interconnects on chips, in nanoparticles that recognize and interact with biomolecules,
or in solar cells.
With solar cells, metallic nanostructures can boost the absorption of light
into the cell's photoactive material. And with an enhanced light absorption,
it is possible to produce cells with less base material, thus thinner and cheaper
cells. Metal nanostructures can improve the absorption in various types of cells,
for example crystalline Si cells, cells based on high-performance III-V semiconductors,
or organic and dye-sensitized solar cells.
The aim of the FP7 project PRIMA is twofold. First, the project wants to gain
insight into the physical mechanisms of metallic nanostructures, and in how
they can improve the light absorption of the solar cell's material. Second,
the project's partners want to study how these structures can best be
integrated into the production of solar cells. For this, they will test a number
of structures, benchmarking them against state-of-the-art solar cells. The performance
and applicability of these cells will then be assessed by solar cell companies
that are participating in the project.
European science traditionally is a leader in both the fields of photovoltaics
and plasmonics and this project helps to maintain Europe's strong position.
Moreover it provides the participating industrial partners with a competitive
advantage, which should create employment and sustainable economic growth in
Europe, while simultaneously contributing to a reduction of the emission of