Masdar Institute Students Gain Expertise in Fabricating Advanced Thin-Film Solar Cells

September 21, 2018

Two Students Attend Training Session on Fabrication at UNAM in Turkey as Global Thin-Film Market Projected to Reach US$44 billion by 2017

Abu Dhabi-UAE: 06 February, 2013 – Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, an independent, research-driven graduate-level university focused on advanced energy and sustainable technologies, today announced it has taken another step forward in bringing the technical expertise for fabricating advanced thin-film solar cells to the UAE.

Accompanied by Dr. Ammar Nayfeh, Assistant Professor, Microsystems Engineering, two students – Aaesha Alnuami and Kazi Mohitul Islam – travelled to National Nanotechnology Research Center (UNAM) at Bilkent University in Ankara, Turkey, to gain expertise in fabricating thin film solar cells. The two are trained to use the advanced equipment at The Nano Electronic and Photonics Research Group (NEP) laboratory in Masdar Institute.

The research collaboration with UNAM in Turkey concurs with the mission of Masdar Institute and is expected to contribute to the socio-economic objectives articulated in Abu Dhabi’s Vision 2030 plan.

In addition, the knowledge the students have gained through UNAM will play a key role in ramping up the nano-fabrication facility at Masdar institute, which is the first in the UAE and second in the GCC. In fact, Masdar Institute can be instrumental in unifying all research in the nano-fabrication facilities in the Middle East to create a world-renowned knowledge bank. Additionally, the Class ‘100’ and Class ‘1000’ cleanrooms at Masdar Institute are now operational, thus paving the way for researchers to build nano-components that can be assembled to make new and useful devices.

Dr Fred Moavenzadeh, president, Masdar Institute said: “The training received by the two Masdar Institute students at UNAM will help establish and evolve interdisciplinary and collaborative research that will develop capability in advanced energy and sustainability. The novelty of the research will inspire students to be innovators and lead technology and enterprise in the region and globally. Research into clean energy sources is of vital interest to the Masdar Initiative and Abu Dhabi at large, and with the support of the UAE’s leadership we will continue to lead innovations in future energy areas.”

On completion of the training at UNAM, Alnuami fabricated thin film crystalline Si-solar cells and studied the effect of ‘annealing’ – a process whereby a device is treated with a specific ratio of Hydrogen and Nitrogen on a specific temperature and then allowed to cool down slowly, thus improving the interfacial properties between different layers. At the same time, Kazi Islam fabricated a nanoparticle-enhanced amorphous Si-based solar cell. In this work, we place tiny gold dots as small at 10 nano meters (10-8 meter) on top of the solar cell. When sunlight hits the gold dot, surface plasmons are created, enabling a self-sustaining, propagating electromagnetic wave that enhances the amount of energy the solar cell can provide. The solar cell fabrication process developed in the UNAM cleanroom will be transferred shortly to Masdar Institute's state-of-the-art nano-fabrication facility.

The main advantages of thin-film solar cells are their light weight and resistance to heat. Unlike other technologies, thin-film solar panels do not decrease in output when temperatures rise. Consequently, the actual output of thin-film solar panels is usually close to what they are rated for, making planning a solar-power system much easier.

Dr. Ammar Nayfeh said: “The fabrication knowledge and training the students have gained is an invaluable asset and will assist greatly in the ramping up of Masdar Institute's nano-fabrication facility. The fabricated thin film solar cells are currently being characterized in our solar cell lab at Masdar Institute. The results will be submitted to the 39th IEEE Photovoltaic Specialists Conference 2013 at the Tampa Convention Center in Tampa Bay, Florida.”

The training and fabrication work were part of the on-going research collaboration between Dr Ammar Nayfeh's NEP and Dr Ali Okyay's research group at Bilkent University.

In a recent report titled ‘Thin-Film Solar Technology Market Shares, Strategies, and Forecasts, Worldwide, 2011 to 2017' by US company Wintergreen Research, the global thin-film market is projected to reach US$44 billion by 2017. With building-integrated photovoltaics systems (BIPV), electric cars and ever-increasing applications, the thin-film industry is expected to grow in the next few years.

Aaesha Alnuaimi is currently conducting research on ‘The effect of interface states on a-Si/c-Si thin film hetero-junction solar cells’, while Kazi Islam’s research focuses on ‘Novel Methods to Increase the Efficiency of Thin Film Solar cells’.

Aaesha Alnuami said: “The training at UNAM in Turkey was crucial for obtaining key insights into operating and understanding micro/nano-fabrication processes. With this expertise, we have developed the thin-film solar cells. I thank Masdar Institute and my academic advisor Dr Ammar Nayfeh for making this possible and I am confident the training will prove beneficial to my research work here in Abu Dhabi.”

Kazi Islam said: “At UNAM I learnt how to fabricate a nanoparticle-enhanced amorphous Si-based solar cell. The training facilities and the program have adequately enriched me in this area. I thank my academic advisor Dr Ammar Nayfeh and Masdar Institute for this training opportunity and I hope to contribute to obtaining sustainable clean energy solutions for the future.”

UNAM hosts a 400-square meter word-class cleanroom laboratory including class ‘100’ and class ‘1000’ lab spaces for micro/nano-fabrication processes. UNAM cleanroom consists of four parts – Epitaxial material growth division; lithography (yellow) room; thin-film deposition and etching division; and device characterization (dark) room. The cleanroom is designed suitably for a researcher to grow, fabricate, and test his/her samples in the same laboratory.

Serving as a key pillar of innovation and human capital, Masdar Institute remains fundamental to Masdar’s core objectives of developing Abu Dhabi’s knowledge economy and finding solutions to humanity’s toughest challenges such as climate change.

Established as an on-going collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Masdar Institute integrates theory and practice to incubate a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship, working to develop the critical thinkers and leaders of tomorrow.  With its world-class faculty and top-tier students, the Institute is committed to finding solutions to the challenges of clean energy and climate change through education and research.