SETO grant to fund development of method for detecting perovskite defects during manufacturing

The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) selected University of Arizona chemical and environmental engineering associate professor Erin Ratcliff for a $300,000 grant to advance the near-term scalability of perovskites.

“Perovskites are the highest-performing printable solar cell technology,” Ratcliff said. “But the operating hypothesis in the field is that defects are contributing to instability”. With the SETO grant, Ratcliff and her team will develop a method for detecting these defects during manufacturing. The low-cost, scalable method will help scientists understand the way different parts and materials of the manufacturing process may contribute to defects and instability, and, in turn, how to mitigate these effects. The grant is part of SETO’s Small Innovative Projects in Solar 2022 Funding Program, which funds targeted, early-stage ideas in solar energy research that can produce significant results within the first year of performance. Nineteen projects received a total of $5 million in funding.

“What our project is about is trying to develop an in-line characterization tool to get you a quality control assessment to tell you how good the layers are in the exact moments you’re making them,” Ratcliff said. “This quality control method is also an indication for the long-term stability of the materials you’re making.”

Current techniques for detecting defects are used only after the material is produced. A technician might shine a light on the material and see how the material reacts, for example. Ratcliff is developing an electrochemical method. In addition to being able to detect defects during manufacturing, the method can also offer a more nuanced look at the potential presence of defects. It will involve using a robotic arm to apply a thin material, about the thickness of cellophane, to a solar panel being manufactured.

“You stick it on there and you apply an electric field on [the manufacturing] line, and you can figure out how it works under operation, without having to make the whole device first,” Ratcliff said.

Her defect quantification work is supported by the Office of Naval Research. She is also working with Tech Launch Arizona, the UArizona office that commercializes inventions stemming from university research.

“Large-scale manufacturing of these robust, high-quality perovskite-based photovoltaics will require low-cost and practical quality control methods that can be integrated into an operating line,” said Laura Silva, senior licensing manager for the College of Science at Tech Launch Arizona. “Ratcliff’s approach is overcoming these challenges and making the technology much more attractive in a marketplace that’s demanding higher and higher performance.”

Posted: Jul 28,2022 by Roni Peleg