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EU H2020 Grant Award

Thin film Quantum Dot Solar Cells for the Space and Green Energy Sectors

Congratulations to Professor Huiyun Liu who has just been awarded a 2-year H2020 Grant from the EU for almost £150k involving partner universities and companies in Italy, Netherlands and Finland for a project titled “Thin film light-trapping enhanced quantum dot photovoltaic cells: an enabling technology for high power-to-weight ratio space solar arrays” (TFQD).

Professor Liu’s leading Molecular Beam Epitaxy (MBE) group will carry out the active material growth for GaAs reference solar cells and GaAs-based quantum dot solar cells. His group is very active in the area of developing high-efficient III-V solar cells by exploiting nanostructures. UCL has recently invested £4.5 million to establish a unique twin MBE facility with one III-V reactor for growing phosphides and arsenides and another reactor for growing Group-IV epitaxial materials. These two reactors are connected by ultra-high vacuum chamber for transferring wafers between these two reactors, which will enable the growth of high-quality mixture compound semiconductor materials with Group-IV epi-structures. UCL also invested a wide range of characterization facilities for epitaxial materials and devices, such as High-Resolution X-ray, Photoluminescence Mapping system, and AFM, in last 10 years.

Professor Liu said

“We aim at developing highly efficient nanostructured semiconductor devices for photovoltaic conversion, by exploiting cross-cutting Key Enabling Technologies such as: advanced manufacturing, advanced materials, photonics. The core device is a thin-film III-V single junction solar cell embedding quantum dots and nanophotonic gratings to boost the efficiency beyond the thermodynamic limit of conventional single-junction devices. Combining the thin-film approach with the nanostructuring of semiconductor layers allows for a drastic improvement of power-to-weight ratio and flexibility with respect to current space solar cells based on high-efficiency Si and III-V solar cells.”

Professor Liu believes that the favorable power-to-weight ratio and the high efficiency will allow the thin-film light trapped enhanced quantum dot solar cells to bring breakthrough innovation in the design of solar arrays: mass and area saving as well as flexibility will pave the way to miniaturisation, power consumption reduction, increased efficiency, versatility, and functionality of future satellites. Important exploitation opportunities are also foreseen, and will be pursued, in the terrestrial renewable energy sector.