Scanning electron microscope image of two microscale crystalline silicon photovoltaic cells with radial contacts on the back side.
Researchers at Sandia National Laboratories are pioneering solar photovoltaic (PV) technologies that are cheaper to produce and easier to install than traditional grid power and capable of producing clean, safe, and reliable electricity. These innovations can help accelerate the growth of PV as a mainstream power source in the United States and globally.
One such innovation under development at Sandia is microsystems enabled photovoltaics (MEPV). MEPV concepts use microdesign and microfabrication techniques to produce miniaturized solar cells that are released into a solution similar to printing ink. This solution is then placed or ‘printed’ onto a low-cost substrate with embedded contacts and microlenses for focusing sunlight onto the cells. Sandia’s approach uses cells that are tiny in both thickness and lateral dimensions – as small as 14 microns thick and 250 microns wide. The thinness of the cells reduces material costs while enhancing cell performance by improving carrier collection and potentially achieving higher open circuit voltages.
Sandia’s microsystems enabled PV advances combine mature technology and tools currently used in microsystem production with groundbreaking advances in photovoltaic cell design, decreasing production and system costs while improving energy conversion efficiency. The technology has potential applications in buildings, houses, clothing, portable electronics, vehicles, and other contoured structures.
Sandia National Laboratories is a multi-program laboratory managed and operated by Sandia Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of Lockheed Martin Corporation, for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration under contract DE-AC04-94AL85000.