FREE subscription
Subscribe for free to receive each issue of Semiconductor Today magazine and weekly news brief.


16 October 2008


Colorado grants $1.2m for 12 solar research projects

In its inaugural round of R&D funding, the Center for Revolutionary Solar Photoconversion (CRSP) is launching 12 solar research projects (nine beginning this fall and three in January). Eight will receive $100,000 and the rest between $75,000 and $99,818 (giving a total of just over $1,168,000).

CRSP was launched in April as the newest research center of the Colorado Renewable Energy Collaboratory, which comprises the Colorado School of Mines (CSM), the University of Colorado at Boulder (CU), Colorado State University (CSU) and the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, CO. Six of the projects involve NREL researchers, CSM and CSU are included in four apiece, and CU shares in three projects. The University of Wyoming also is participating in one. Fourteen firms are now also CRSP members: Applied Materials Inc, Ascent Solar Technologies Inc, DuPont, Evident Technologies, General Motors, Konarka, Lockheed Martin, Motech Industries, QuantumSphere, Sharp, Solasta, Sub-One Technology, SunEdison and Toyota.

CRSP aims to conduct basic and applied research leading to the development of new solar energy technologies or advancing existing systems for direct solar energy conversion that will be both highly efficient and cost-effective to produce. The center also supports education and research opportunities to develop the workforce to support the new energy economy.

The new projects are funded for up to two years by contributions from CRSP’s corporate members and matching funds from the State of Colorado under the CRSP’s shared research program, in which corporate members participate in a review panel that selects pre-competitive shared research projects. Corporate members receive non-exclusive licenses to any resulting intellectual property. The program is designed to leverage this intellectual property to develop large-scale proprietary research for CRSP member companies, and help the technologies efficiently enter the marketplace for commercial use.

The projects were selected from a total of 31 applications, says NREL senior research fellow Arthur Nozik (CRSP’s scientific director). “These projects represent the leading edge of research into both new ways to generate electricity and liquid and gaseous fuels directly from the sun and improving our approaches toward these goals,” he adds. “Exploring the fundamental nature and performance of advanced photoconversion materials and experimenting with new approaches are essential if we are to greatly increase the efficiency and lower the cost of solar photon conversion and decrease our reliance on fossil fuels.”

The 12 selected solar projects are:

  • Integrated Electrical and Optical Characterization of Silicon Thin Films (NREL and CSM), $99,818;
  • Redox-Tunable Polymers for OPV active layers (NREL and CSU), $100,000;
  • Group IV Nanowire Photovoltaics (CSM), $100,000;
  • In-Vitro Evolution of RNA-Inorganic Catalysts for the Conversion of CO2 to Alcohols (CU), $100,000;
  • Optimizing Cu2ZnSnS4-based Photovoltaic Devices for Thin Films (CSU and Wyoming), $75,000;
  • Group IV Quantum Dots for 3rd Generation Photovoltaics (NREL and CU), $95,000.
  • Probing Critical Interfaces in 2nd and 3rd Generation Photovolaics with Nonlinear Optics (NREL and CU), $100,000;
  • Spatially resolved Spectroscopic Studies of Small Ordered Crystals of Semiconductor Nanocrystals (NREL and CSU), $100,000;
  • Nanoscale Engineering of Functional Metal Oxides for Photocatalysts and Photovoltaics (CSM), $98,893;
  • Plasma Processing for Improved Understanding and Control of Film Properties and Interfaces with Organic/Polymeric/Hybrid Solar Cells (CSU), $100,000;
  • Fundamental Studies of Polyoxometallage-Based Nano-Materials for Photoelectrochemical Water Splitting (NREL and CSM), $100,000; and
  • Development of an Economical Catalyst for Water Oxidation (solar fuels) (CU), $100,000.

CRSP adds that it is also pursuing federal grants that could initiate additional basic or applied research that advances solar energy in novel ways.

Ascent Solar gives update on commercialization

Ascent Solar Technologies Inc of Littleton, CO, USA, a developer of flexible thin-film photovoltaic modules based on copper indium gallium diselenide (CIGS), has provided an update on progress made towards commercial production.

Orders have been placed for equipment to be used for the deposition of the top and bottom contact layers, semiconductor CIGS and buffer layer as well as laser scribing, encapsulation and testing for the initial 30MW production capacity. This equipment is scheduled to be in place by third-quarter 2009, allowing for production to begin in 2010. The new manufacturing facility in Thornton, CO is in the final stages of completion and should be ready to accommodate equipment installation in early 2009.

At the end of September, Ascent had about $99m of cash and short-term investments, most of which has been committed to the purchase of manufacturing equipment and facilities and for working capital. After the close of the quarter, the firm received an additional investment of about $15m from Norsk Hydro ASA of Oslo, Norway (one of the world’s leading suppliers of aluminum), which is interested in building-integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) systems.

Ascent says that it continues to see progress with product development and strategic partners, and expects additional strategic relationships to be formed.

The firm displayed developmental modules at this week’s SolarPower International 2008 event in San Diego, CA. “We continue to believe that the market for flexible renewable solar photovoltaics will grow steadily and that Ascent Solar is well positioned to assume a leading role in this burgeoning new market,” says chairman & CEO Dr Mohan Misra.

See related items:

Solar America Initiative awards second round of PV Incubator funding

NREL sets solar cell efficiency record of 40.8%

Ascent Solar considers accelerating CIGS PV capacity ramp

Search: NREL Ascent Thin-film photovoltaics CIGS