For the first time, engineers at Oregon State University (OSU) have now developed a process to create “CIGS” solar cells with inkjet printing technology that allows for precise patterning to reduce raw material waste by 90 percent and significantly lower the cost of producing solar cells with promising, yet expensive compounds.
The researchers focused on chalcopyrite, or “CIGS” – so named for the copper, indium, gallium and selenium elements of which it’s composed – due to its high solar efficiency. A layer of chalcopyrite one or two microns thick has the ability to capture the energy from photons about as efficiently as a 50-micron-thick layer made of silicon.
The researchers were able to create an ink that could print chalcopyrite onto substrates with an inkjet approach, with a power conversion efficiency of about five percent. While this isn’t yet high enough to create a commercially viable solar cell, the researchers say they expect to be able to achieve an efficiency of about 12 percent with continued research.