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Prof Awarded Grant for Research on Flexible Solar Cells

Sylvain Marsillac, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering in Old Dominion University's Frank Batten College of Engineering and Technology, has been awarded a $300,000 grant to conduct research on flexible solar cells.

The one-year grant from the Air Force Research Laboratory in Albuquerque, N.M. - part of a $3 million grant shared with the University of Toledo, Ohio State University and the University of Illinois-Champaign - is an effort to make solar cells used on high-altitude, or orbiting, aircraft as lightweight and efficient as possible.

"Because this is the Air Force, they want two things. They want the capacity to launch these solar cells in the sky, so they need high power with the least amount of weight - that's the high-power density," Marsillac said.

He will focus his efforts on developing a new class of semiconductor materials that will allow higher efficiency devices to be fabricated at lower temperatures. This will enhance the power density of the devices by using a variety of flexible substrates, from metallic to polymer.

"The technology used in space is far different from the technology used on Earth," said Marsillac, a specialist in photovoltaic research who relocated to ODU from the University of Toledo last fall. "They need as many watts as possible with the least amount of weight. They don't care about the cost."

An ideal solar cell would be efficient, lightweight and affordable. "But it doesn't exist yet," Marsillac said. His research will seek to help move the efficiency and lightweight aspects of solar cells as far along as possible.

"Our goal is to find new materials that can develop higher efficiency by themselves - or new designs, new architecture - that will result in higher efficiency," Marsillac said.

Another aspect of the research will be the development of real-time and in-situ monitoring of the materials deposition, which encourages better engineering of the fabrication process, leading to enhanced industrial applications.

This article was posted on: January 13, 2011

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