Group Researches Anti-Reflection Solar Coating

WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 7, 2024


An international team of scientists recently announced that research was being conducted using combinations of silicon dioxide (SiO2) and zirconium dioxide (ZrO2) for anti-reflection coatings for solar panels.

According to a report from PV Magazine, the coating has the ability to minimize a solar cell’s reflection loss, while improving its light absorption properties.

About the Coating

“The primary objective of anti-reflective coatings is to minimize the reflection loss, so enhancing the absorption properties by the semiconductor material, often silicon, and facilitating its conversion into electrical energy,” one team member stated. “This is essential for increasing solar cell efficiency.”

The team reportedly tested the results of a half-and-half mix of SiO2-ZrO2 coating on the cell performances.

The scientists also used polycrystalline Si solar cells measuring 5 centimeters (about 2 inches) by 4 centimeters (about 1.5 inches) with an efficiency of 14.4%. The team stated that they then coated the solar cells with either SiO2, ZrO2, or SiO2-ZrO2 using the radiofrequency (RF) sputter coating technique.

The researchers explained that “to ensure a nearly uniform distribution, the mixture underwent mechanical grinding with a mortar and pestle for approximately 120 minutes."

According to the report, the RF sputter coating technique uses radiofrequency energy to create plasma and sputter material from a target onto a substrate. In this process, argon gas was reportedly ionized to form plasma during the sputtering. The team added that the coating process lasted 45 minutes at room temperature.

After coating the three cells, the researchers reportedly looked at the light absorption and transmittance compared to their performance with uncoated reference cells.

Based on the results of an I–V measurement, the uncoated cell’s power conversion efficiency reportedly was 14.4%, while that of the SiO2-ZrO2 sample was 17.6%. Additionally, the SiO2-only sample had an efficiency of 15.6%, and the ZrO2 had 16.7%.

“The Root Mean Square (RMS) values of roughness for SiO2, ZrO2, and SiO2–ZrO2 blend coated solar cells were measured at 35.42 nm, 47.47 nm, and 62.36 nm respectively,” the researchers added. “The increased surface roughness may also serve to reduce the reflection loss potentially and enhance optical transmittance.”

The study was recently published in the Journal of Material and Research Technology.

More Solar Coatings

In September of last year, a team of researchers from the University of Toledo reportedly developed a strip coating that causes accumulated snow to slide off solar panels without interfering with their efficiency.

According to a report from The Independent, the new coating could reportedly create a way to passively remove snow from solar panels and allow them to keep generating electricity during harsh weather conditions.

The new self-cleaning strip coatings could reportedly be applied to both new and existing solar installations relatively easily. Tests in both the U.S. and Japan had reportedly found that panels fitted with the strip had achieved over 5% improved power generation annually.

Solar energy had reportedly accounted for around 3.4% of electricity generation in the United States in 2022, according to figures from the Energy Information Administration. Approximately half of the new U.S. electricity-generating capacity in 2023 is expected to be from solar.

One researcher said he expected thousands of strip coatings to be installed across the country by the end of the year.

Also, in November, researchers at Huazhong University of Science and Technology (HUST) in China were reportedly researching new options in photovoltaic coating technology to develop a clean and low-cost blade coating for solar panels.

A report from the American Association for the Advancement of Science's news outlet EurekAlert stated that a team of researchers led by professor Haisheng Song were interested in studying options in next generation photovoltaic technology like quantum dots (QDs) and near-infrared solar cells (NIRSCs).

The report stated that devices like QDs NIRSCs had been known to suffer from the absence of a scalable preparation method for device fabrication.

In response to this issue, Song’s team reportedly developed a mixed solvent system from dimethylformamide (DMF) and butylamine (BTA), based on the Lewis acid-base theory and Derjaguin, Landau, Verwey and Overbeek (DLVO) theory.

The new system, the team stated, had the ability to keep the stability of QD inks and could work compatibly with the large-scale blade coating process.

According to the report, finding ways to develop clean and low-cost solar photovoltaic power could be an important asset in the path towards reaching carbon neutrality.

Song and his team believed that the new research could show how the tandem device, made of a 1.55 eV perovskite top-cell and 1.0 eV PbS QDs bottom-cell, had the potential to reach a power conversion efficiency (PCE) of 43%, which is reportedly significantly higher than the 33% single junction limit.

   

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