Professor Dong Rip Kim of the Department of Mechanical Engineering has successfully fabricated peel-and-stick TFSCs in collaboration with a Stanford team led by Professor Xiaolin Zheng. The methodology makes it possible to overcome the current hurdles related to working with traditional solar cells, namely the lack of handling, high manufacturing cost and limited flexibility while maintaining performance.
At present Kim is in charge of the Hanyang University Nanotechnology for Energy Conversion Laboratory. His research interests concern solar cells, energy conversion devices using nanomaterials, flexible electronics, nano-electronics and nano-sensors. For instance among Kim's recent publication is: "Peel-and-Stick: Fabricating thin film solar cell on universal substrates" - in the journal of Scientific Reports, "Shrinking and growing: grain boundary density reduction for efficient poly-silicon thin film solar cells" - in the journal of Nano Letters, and "Thermal conductivity in porous silicon nano-wire arrays" - in the journal of Nano-scale Research Letters.
Nowadays most solar cells are fabricated on Si wafers or glass base substrates. However, the biggest issue for commercialising solar cells is their relative high price. Additionally, due to the fabrication on Si wafer, the subsequent solar cells can become rigid and heavy while being fragile. Whilst Si wafer solar cells are recognised as one of the most crucial alternative sources of energy, such limitations have prevented wider adaption/application of such solar cells. Fortunately, Kim and his colleagues devised an innovative idea to produce light-weight flexible solar cell on non-conventional or universal base substrates, that overcome the limitations of traditional methods while still maintaining overall performance. In doing so - Kim strongly believes his new cells could broaden the application spectrum of future solar cells.
Overall the perceived success comes from using the same traditional fabrication method while adding a metal layer between the fabricated a-Si:H TFSCs and the underlying Si/SiO2 wafer. After various attempts and/or trails - Kim and colleagues contrived a method to reliably peel the fabricated TFSCs from the Si/SO2 wafer by using water penetration between the metal layer and the SiO2 layer on the wafer.
In summary, although others have successfully fabricated TFSCs on flexible base substrates to realise the flexible solar cells - many such of efforts have been driven to modify the existing processes for solar cell fabrication, due to the 'rubber-like' properties of the flexible base substrates. Importantly, Kim and colleagues made the light-weight flexible solar cells without modifying any existing fabrication processes, and their performance was maintained even after the transfer. Kim stated that their novel technology is not limited to the solar cells only - numerous other applications like flexible displays can adopt this method. As Kim states "I will continue to focus on creating highly efficient but low costing energy conversion devices with nanotechnology" - where his future research will focus on applying his method in other types of solar cells and in other applications. Original article available here
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