While solar cells are a great alternative to fossil fuels, the environmental impact of the processes involved in manufacturing solar cells has been a concern. Solar panel fabrication often involves toxic materials such as cadmium and industrial waste. In a new study, researchers have developed an eco-friendly method that eliminates toxic cadmium in the production process to produce cost-effective, efficient, and eco-friendly thin film solar cells.
While efficiency is a primary concern for solar cells, researchers have also focused on developing solar cells that are lightweight, low-cost, and flexible. However, the fabrication process has posed a severe environmental concern: the use of toxic materials and industrial waste generation.
For the researchers removing cadmium from thin film solar cells was as important as developing an eco-friendly manufacturing process that is both efficient and affordable. Addressing these issues, the researchers replaced the traditional cadmium sulfide buffer layer with a native buffer layer formed by oxidizing the surface of the Cu(In,Ga)(S,Se)2 CIGSSe layer with an air-annealing process. The researchers have disclosed for the first time that the CIGSSe surface oxidized through an optimized air-annealing process leads to a substantial enhancement in energy conversion efficiency. It is possible to apply the new method to large-scale manufacturing applications.