“Promising Opportunities in High-Efficiency III-V Photovoltaics”
Alexandre Freundlich, University of Houston
The PV industry, even in its modest gigawatt energy production level, is a multibillion dollar industry. Boosted by regulatory incentives, the industry is experiencing strong growth and a significant influx of capital investment. Recent advances in solar cells and in particular in inexpensive thin films and concentrator PV devices continue to drive down the cost of solar electricity generation. Today the production cost of kWh in many applications approaches the retail price of electricity generated by traditional means (fossil fuels). Yet in order for PV to become a major component of the much sought-after terawatt level renewable energy portfolio, a nearly two-to-three-fold further cost reduction is needed. Such a cost reduction will likely rely on technological breakthroughs that would significantly enhance both the efficiency and manufacture of photovoltaics.
This talk will briefly overview the current R&D landscape in the development of next-generation ultra-efficient solar cells as well as cost-reduction strategies. The presentation will emphasize advances at the University of Houston in the design and characterization of high-efficiency quantum-confined solar cells (i.e., dilute nitride quantum well cells) and recent efforts in the synthesis of highly efficient III-V photovoltaics on inexpensive flexible metal substrates.
Alexandre Freundlich is a research professor of physics and electrical and computer engineering at the University of Houston, where he is the project leader for the photovoltaics and nanostructures project in the Center for Advanced Materials. The project provides an interdisciplinary approach to R&D problems in photovoltaic materials and devices. Researchers are investigating a wide range of fundamental and applied materials problems to improve cell efficiency, increase power/weight ratios and decrease the cost of high-efficiency solar cells. Under development are sophisticated new III-V quantum-scale semiconductor materials and solar designs (with projected efficiencies in excess of 40 percent) and new photovoltaic energy concepts that will enhance planetary and deep-space exploration.