Posted in | Nanofabrication

Ultra Transparent Ceramic Oxides Help Improve Photovoltaic Efficiency

Published on June 11, 2013 at 12:57 PM

Innovnano, a manufacturer of high performance ceramic powders, has developed nanostructured Aluminium–doped Zinc Oxide (AZO) for improved thin-film solar cell efficiency.

Innovnano’s AZO sputtering targets are ideal for the development of next-generation, high performance transparent conducting oxide (TCO) films, allowing researchers to investigate the optimal materials and manufacturing process conditions. Such research can be utilised to develop TCOs on an industrial scale, for the production of more sustainable and efficient photovoltaic solar cells. Also offering an attractive alternative to traditional indium tin oxide (ITO), AZO overcomes the rarity and consequently high price of indium. Furthermore, Innovnano’s AZO can be processed easily at room or low temperatures for flexible thin film solar cells proving to be more adhesive than ITO.

Using their patented Emulsion Detonation Synthesis (EDS) process, Innovnano produces a highly pure, nanostructured AZO powder with enhanced density and chemical homogeneity compared to conventional microstructured AZO ceramics. Importantly, the resulting uniform nanostructure can be sintered at lower temperatures to produce sputtering targets with minimal grain growth and mirrored characteristics – highly dense with an even distribution of aluminium within the zinc oxide matrix. This ensures the resulting TCO is deposited as a stable and consistent thin film, for rest-assured quality during important process development.

Ideal for laboratory research, Innovnano produces 50, 75 and 150 mm diameter sputtering targets for the next generation of highly transparent conducting oxides thin films. Commenting on their trials of Innovnano’s research grade sputter targets at Loughborough University, Patrick Isherwood a researcher at the CREST Laboratory commented, “These AZO targets are without doubt the easiest to use of any AZO target we’ve worked with, and consistently produce top quality thin films with the electrical and optical properties we need for solar cell applications”.

Thanks to the homogenous grain structure, high transmittance of visible and near IR wavelengths can be harnessed by the photovoltaic cell for maximum energy capture. TCOs produced using Innovnano’s AZO sputtering targets have been shown to exhibit over 80% transmittance in the visible range, and show very good electrical conductivity, making it a highly attractive candidate for TCOs in thin film solar cell applications.

Joấo Calado, Innovnano’s Technical Director, said of the AZO sputtering targets:  “At Innovnano, we’re working to enable research and development teams to produce working prototypes of the next wave of environmentally-sustainable, super-efficient photovoltaic cells. The beneficial characteristics of our nanostructured AZO powder are inherent to our production method, ensuring that we can produce the sputtering targets that researchers need to produce ultra-transparent conducting oxides”.

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