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1 May 2008


Kopin awarded phase II NASA STTR solar cell development contract

Kopin of Taunton, MA, USA, which makes III-V heterojunction bipolar transistor (HBT) epiwafers and CyberDisplay LCDs, has been awarded a $600,000 solar cell development contract from NASA.

The contract is the second phase of a Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program to develop indium nitride (InN)-based quantum-dot solar cell technology. Kopin’s partners on the NASA STTR project include groups at Virginia Tech and Magnolia Optical Technologies.

“The goal of this STTR program is to develop high-efficiency solar cells that are resistant to extreme conditions while achieving high solar electric power conversion efficiency,” says Dr Roger Welser, Kopin’s director of technology and new product development. “The advanced patent-pending solar cell structure incorporating InN-based nanostructures can harness a very large fraction of the solar spectrum while minimizing the effects of high temperatures and high-energy radiation,” he adds. “This technology will enable photovoltaic power systems of future NASA space exploration missions to operate in extreme environments with high temperature and radiation exposures.”

Quantum-dot nanostructures allow the spectral response and operating voltage of a solar cell to be tailored in ways that are not possible with bulk semiconductor materials, explains the firm. In particular, the wide range of energies accessible to InN-based materials provides unique flexibility in designing quantum-dot solar cell structures.

Phase I work demonstrated device-quality InN-based quantum dots exhibiting strong room-temperature photoluminescence, with peak emission energies ranging from the infrared to the ultraviolet. During phase II, InN-based quantum dots will be embedded within a higher-bandgap GaN barrier material to demonstrate high efficiency and immunity to extreme environments.

“This STTR project is part of Kopin’s long-term goal to address the emerging terrestrial renewable energy market by realizing the ultimate objective of high conversion efficiency at low costs,” says Dr John C.C. Fan, Kopin’s president and CEO. Kopin is currently exploring a number of options for synthesizing high-performance photovoltaic materials. “Ultimately, our approaches can provide pathways for realizing solar cells with power conversion efficiency approaching 60%, well beyond the current state-of-the-art efficiency of 40%,” Fan reckons.

See related item:

Kopin reports flat year for III-V product line

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