Economical, environmentally friendly production of High-E

Economical, environmentally friendly production of highly efficient chalcopyrite solar cells

Image: Incheon National University researchers report an environmentally friendly, low-cost, scalable fabrication technique for high-efficiency copper indium gallium sulfur diselenide solar cells that uses aqueous spray deposition in an air environment and avoids expensive vacuum conditions
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Photo credit: JunHo Kim, National University of Incheon

Clean, sustainable energy solutions are essential to meet humanity’s ever-increasing energy needs. Highly efficient solar cells are promising candidates to reduce CO2 emissions and achieve carbon neutrality. In this regard, solution-processed copper indium gallium sulfur diselenide (CIGSSe) solar cells have attracted great interest because of their excellent photovoltaic properties, such as high visible light absorption, stability, and tunable band gap. However, large-scale practical applications are limited by a two-fold challenge. First, solution-based CIGSSe fabrication results in very low power conversion efficiency and often uses solvents that are not environmentally friendly. Second, to achieve higher power conversion efficiencies, manufacturing processes rely on an expensive vacuum environment that results in significant material wastage. To this end, a research team led by Professor JunHo Kim from the Global Energy Research Center for Carbon Neutrality at Incheon National University, Korea, has developed a cost-effective and environmentally friendly manufacturing method for high-efficiency CIGSSe solar cells.

In a study made available online September 4, 2022 and subsequently published in Volume 32, Issue 46 of Advanced functional materials On November 10, 2022, researchers used aqueous spray deposition in an air environment and developed a CIGSSe solar cell with a power conversion efficiency (PCE) of more than 17%. “For the spray solution, we used deionized water, which is environmentally friendly and the cheapest solvent to date.“, explains Prof. Kim. In addition, traditional solution-based manufacturing processes rely on environmentally hazardous cadmium-based buffers to optimize thin-film solar cells. In this novel technique, researchers used an indium sulfide-based buffer, which offers a cadmium-free, environmentally friendly alternative.

Researchers further studied the alloying effects of zirconium on indium sulfide buffers. Remarkably, the team found that the zirconium alloy increases the concentration of electrons in the buffer. In addition, this process “passivates” or reduces defect states in the CIGSSe absorber, thereby optimizing charge transfer between different interfaces, resulting in improved PCE. In addition, the researchers achieved even stronger defect passivation and a higher PCE of more than 17% by alloying the CIGSSe absorber with potassium. The cell produced has an optimal bandgap for high efficiency applications such as a bottom cell or a tandem cell.

This novel technique is inexpensive and easily scalable as it does not require a vacuum environment. As Prof. Kim states: “We carried out the spray deposition in an air environment without using high vacuum equipment, which greatly reduces the manufacturing cost, thus making the manufacturing technique more practical and competitive in the industrial sector.

This development simultaneously improves the performance and manufacture of CIGSSe solar cells. This will revolutionize the application of these cells in integrated photovoltaic devices and vehicle-integrated photovoltaic devices, as well as power sources for Internet-of-Things devices.




Authors: Md Salahuddin Mina1Seong Yeon Kim2Temujin Enkhbat 1Enkhjargal Enkhbayar 1and JunHo Kim1.3


1Nano Photoelectronic Device Lab, Department of Physics, Incheon National University 119 Academy-ro, Yeonsu-gu, Incheon 22012, Republic of Korea

2Thin Film Solar Cell Research Center, Daegu-Gyeonbuk Institute of Science and Technology (DGIST) Daegu 42988, Republic of Korea

3Global Energy Research Center for Carbon Neutrality, Incheon National University, 119 Academy-ro, Yeonsu-gu, Incheon 22012, Republic of Korea

About Incheon National University

Incheon National University (INU) is a comprehensive, student-oriented university. It was founded in 1979 and received university status in 1988. As one of the largest universities in South Korea, it is home to nearly 14,000 students and 500 faculty members. In 2010, INU merged with Incheon City College to expand capacity and open more curricula. With a commitment to academic excellence and an unwavering dedication to innovative research, INU offers its students hands-on internship experiences. As well as focusing on study and learning, INU strives to create a supportive environment for students to follow their passion, grow and, as their slogan says, be inspired.


About the author

dr JunHo Kim, the corresponding author of the study, is a professor of physics at Korea’s Incheon National University. His research group develops highly efficient thin-film solar cells with environmentally friendly materials such as chalcopyrite, kesterite and perovskite. He received his PhD in Physics from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology in 1998. Before joining Incheon National University, he worked as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, San Diego (1998-2000) and as a research fellow at the Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute of South Korea (2000-2004).

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