Innovation promises cheaper solar cell glass manufacturing

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Scientists from the government-run Center for Nano and Soft Matter Sciences (Cens) Bengaluru have developed a low-cost method of fabricating the transparent conducting glass (TCG) used for solar cells.

The researchers at the institute, part of the federal government Department of Science & Technology, claim their production method is 80% cheaper than the tin-doped, indium oxide (ITO) based technology currently in use. The glass also has the potential to bring down the production cost of devices such as smart windows and touch screens.

Tin-doped indium oxide coatings are costly because of the slow deposition rate involved in adding films just a few hundred nanometers deep.

The glass produced by the Bengaluru group features a metal mesh on a glass substrate with thin over-layers of metal oxides. The resulting hybrid electrode offers excellent conductive property thanks to the mesh – with sheet resistance of about 5 ohms/square – plus an oxide surface finish to satisfy industrial ITO-based requirements.

Production line

The Bengaluru team led by GU Kulkarni and industrial partner Hind High Vacuum have established a semi-automated, low-cost glass production plant funded by the Department of Science & Technology at the Cens campus.

Ashutosh K Singh, a scientist working on the project, said: “We are fabricating various prototypes such as transparent heaters, transparent electromagnetic interference shields and smart windows based on TCG, to showcase its potential applications. Further, these electrodes have been sent out for field tests in various industries and R&D laboratories.”

Samples of the low-cost glass devices are also available for on site testing and validation.

The Cens work has been published in the journal Materials Chemistry and Physics.

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