By Cameron Chai
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), through its Foundational Program to Advance Cell Efficiency (F-PACE), has awarded a $300,000 grant to an associate professor of computer and electrical engineering at Old Dominion University (ODU), Sylvain Marsillac. The funding will support Marsillac’s research work to enhance the efficiency of solar energy cells.
The PV cells are made using a polycrystalline compound, cadmium telluride, which is extensively used in solar cells and infrared detectors. The compound is applied as a thin layer utilizing high vacuum deposition systems. The process results in the formation of a semiconductor layer that absorbs sunlight and converts the same into electrical energy. Marsillac stated that the DOE grant will help develop efficient methods to improve the cadmium telluride back contacts by examining new materials based on delafossite and chalcopyrite structures. Better connection leads to better voltage, which in turn increases the efficiency of the solar cells, remarked Marsillac.
In order to perform the DOE-funded research, Marsillac is collaborating with two other researchers specialized in alternative energy, one from the University of Illinois and other from the University of Toledo. Each researcher involved in the project has a unique expertise in the PV energy research. Marsillac's area of expertise is the fabrication of the PV cells. His expertise will be used more effectively at ODU’s new PV clean room in Kaufman Hall, which is under renovation.