January 29 (Renewables Now) - Researchers at Washington State University (WSU) have been able to produce 1.2-kilogram crystals of cadmium telluride (CdTe) material using a technique they say is 45% more cost-effective than the industry standard.
The process is scalable and could potentially create crystals of up to 20 kg for solar cell manufacturing and other applications, says a press release on Monday. It can further increase the competitiveness of CdTe-based solar technology.
The research team uses a strong graphite crucible and synthesises the material in a high-pressure Bridgman furnace. This technique allows a crystal of more than 1 kg to be grown in a day which would be considered “lightning fast”, the researchers said. The high-pressure environment also eliminates the possibility of explosions and makes it easier to add dopants during the manufacturing process to improve the material’s performance.
“At 80 atmospheres of pressure, you can really shove the dopants into the material, and you don’t have to worry about them evaporating out of the crystal or otherwise escaping the system,” said Seth McPherson, who co-authored the paper, describing the team’s work in the Journal of Crystal Growth.
The researchers worked in collaboration with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and industry partner Nious Technologies Inc. They got funding for the project from the Department of Energy.