Project ELF-PV - Design and Development of Solution Processable Functional Materials
for the next Generation of PV-Technologies.
ELF-PV is a research project of funded by the Bavarian Ministry of Economic Affairs, Regional Development and Energy (StMWi) with 3.074 Million € of funding for HI ERN over a period of 60 months. The project started in September 2018 and is part of the cooperation between HI ERN and ZAE Bayern.
Both the success stories of low-cost power generation with conventional silicon photovoltaics (PV) and the efficiency improvements in new PV technologies in recent years have largely been the result of innovations in materials and processes. Progress in photovoltaics is dominated by new materials. In the past, the time-to-market for new PV materials was in the range of 25-35 years. In particular, solvent-processed functional materials have the potential to enable large gains in efficiency with low material and process costs. The materials are becoming more and more complex due to the large number of components and finding the "best" process parameters is becoming more and more demanding, as very large parameter spaces are available. Classical, manual methods of material and process development using scientists and technicians are thus increasingly reaching their limits. Therefore the automation of the development of new functional materials is urgently necessary.
With the requirements placed on new functional materials, their complexity is constantly increasing. With unchanged research and development methods, innovation cycles would continue to lengthen. The best structure, composition, processing and post-treatment must be researched in multidimensional parameter spaces. Therefore, the introduction of automated and combinatorial methods in research on new PV-materials is essential to ensure systematic investigation. However, the same applies to many other materials in the energy sector such as storage materials, catalysts, electrolysis, interface materials, thermoelectrics, energy efficiency materials, fuel cells, condensers, etc. such that combinatorial methods and equipment have many applications.
The aim of ELF-PV is to develop methods for high-throughput research for energy materials by synergistic linking of
i) combinatorial material design from nanotechnology,
ii) multimodal ink development from process engineering,
iii) digital and analog solution processing for combinatorial film screening
iv) the combinatorial investigation of photovoltaic components from material and semiconductor research.
The technological developments in recent years in automation, robotics and computer science have created a foundation such that the change from traditional research and development to intelligent, autonomous material development is expected within the next 5-10 years. The project will develop a fully automated research machine together with the necessary methods for combinatorial material development. In the project ELF-PV the experimental prerequisites for autonomously acting research machines in the field of printed electronics are laid.
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