Solar Energy Research, Development and Commercialisation Programme

We are working on thin-film photovoltaic (PV) solar cells based on the CdTe, CuInGaSe2 (CIGS), GaAs/AlGaAs and organic/inorganic hybrid structures.

The focus is on reducing the cost of solar to electrical energy conversion by using electrodeposition as a low cost material growth technique, and developing novel graded bandgap device structures with the highest possible efficiency. Innovative new ideas have been protected in six new patents and subsequently published in the literature during the past four years.

We have established a consortium with the industrial partners, Ionotec and Pilkington and secured funding from the UK Department of Trade and Industry. The consortium is engaged in both scientific research to improve PV performance, and process scale-up to produce large area solar panels.

Current achievements

The consortium has the following achievements to date

  • growth of 16 different semiconductors using electrodeposition and chemical bath deposition. These techniques satisfy three key criteria required for PV commercialisation - low-cost, scalability and manufacturability
  • establishment of protocols for growth of p+, p, i, n and n+ type CIS, CIGS and InSe from just one electrolytic bath and control system
  • development of methods for engineering of bandgaps from ~1.0 to 2.2 eV for CIGS materials using the same electrolytic processes
  • new designs of graded bandgap multilayer tandem solar cells to produce new generation PV solar cells
  • formulation of a new scientific theory that describes the electronic action of CdS/CdTe thin film solar cells, and extending this new model to tandem solar cells and CIGS solar cells
  • securing six new patents to cover above achievements

Present consortium

Solar Energy Group at Sheffield Hallam University

  • Professor I M Dharmadasa
  • Dr N B Chaure
  • G J Tolan
  • J S Wellings
  • G Muftah
  • S Kalyanaratne

Ionotec Ltd

  • Dr S N Heavens (Technical Director) and others

Pilkington Group Ltd

  • Dr P D Warren and others

Facilities available for R&D

Pilkington - supply of glass/metal (TCO, Mo, W, Cr, Sn etc.) substrates for the programme and materials and PV device characterisation.

Ionotec - scaling up of electrodeposition processes for fabricating thin-film devices based on CIGS and CdTe.

Sheffield Hallam University - dedicated electrodeposition lab for materials growth, and device fabrication, assessment, development and scaling up process. Comprehensive material and device characterisation is fully backed by the University's Materials and Engineering Research Institute. The Solar Energy Group is closely collaborating with the EPSRC central facility in the University of Sheffield for GaAs/AlGaAs solar cells.

Promotional work on renewable energy applications

The Sheffield Hallam group is actively involved in an international renewable energy promotional programme (SAREP) through a Higher Education link programme funded by DFID and managed by the British Council.

Contact details

Professor I M Dharmadasa
Materials and Engineering Research Institute
Sheffield Hallam University
Sheffield
S1 1WB
Phone 0114 225 4067
Fax 0114 225 3433
E-mail dharme@shu.ac.uk

Dr S Heavens (Director of R&D)
Ionotec Ltd
14 Berkeley Court
Manor Park
Runcorn
Cheshire
WA7 1TQ
Phone 01928 579668
Fax 01928 579627
E-mail steve@ionotec.com

Dr P Warren (Principal Technologist)
Pilkington Group Ltd
Pilkington European Technical Centre
Hall Lane
Lathom
Ormskirk
Lancashire
L40 5UF
Phone 01695 54781
Fax 01695 54668
E-mail paul.warren@pilkington.com