Overview of current programme activities
The main areas of PV research currently funded by the EU are the following:
- Low-cost and high-quality silicon feedstock;
- Optimisation of crystalline silicon process technologies with particular emphasis on cost and efficiency of wafer cell production;
- Thin-film technologies: highly efficient mass production plus an understanding of material limitations, aimed at reducing costs;
- Innovative PV concepts for PV cells and modules which have a potential for large cost reductions (such as tandem and concentrator cells, new materials).
- Research on reducing the cost of other new and innovative components and systems.
- RTD on cost reduction for other new and innovative components and systems.
- The PV projects funded by the EU can be divided into the following categories; projects dealing with PV cells and modules; those dealing with PV systems; projects about buildings incorporating PV; and lastly a category consisting of other projects. The following chart illustrates the numbers of projects funded in each of the four categories and the money spent.
Number of projects funded for the varios PV categories under the
current programme from 1998 to December 2001
Technology sub-areas researched
What goes on in each of the technology sub-areas?
Crystalline silicon cells
- Cells produced on the basis of crystalline silicon today constitute about 85% of the world's module shipments. Further improvements in device and manufacturing technology are needed.
- The problem of materials supply has to be solved by refined production methods, improved cell efficiency and the development of technologies leading to a doubling of the wafer area produced from the same amount of feedstock.
- The goal is to obtain high efficiency at lowest possible cost by:
- Fine-tuning of the existing high-efficiency structures;
- Research for more efficient light trapping schemes and simpler cell structures;
- Carrier generation processes in which low-energy photons create charged carriers.
- Cost reduction:
- Recycling of chemicals and the reduction of chemical waste production.
- Potentially, the costs of thin-film technologies could be greatly reduced, but research efforts must be made to increase their efficiency and acceptability.
Advanced PV concepts
- Research should be focused on the exploration of advanced concepts.
Organic and polymer cells: the development of cheaper thin-film organic and polymer cells and modules. The required purity level of organic materials is small and large-scale production is relatively easy, while the inherent processing advantages make polymers very attractive.