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The National Academies
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Washington, DC 20001
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Phase 4 (2009 Deadline)
Total Solution Based Organic-Inorganic Solar Cells for Enhanced Efficiency and Stability
S. Ismat Shah, University of Delaware
Salamat Ali, GC University, Lahore
Pakistani Funding (HEC): $239,714
US Funding (Department of State): $215,790
Project Dates: November 15, 2010 - November 14, 2013
The Pakistani research group with group leader Dr. Salamat Ali (photo courtesy of Dr. Syed Shah).
Pakistan is a developing country facing a severe energy crisis that is not only impacting the lives of common citizens but also impeding industrial development. Due to its geographical location, most of the country enjoys plenty of sunshine throughout most of the year. This presents an ideal situation for the country to explore solar energy as an alternative to fossil fuels, yet very little work is being done in this area in Pakistan, and research in photovoltaics is almost nonexistent. The goal of this project is to develop the indigenous human resources, research facilities, and educational infrastructure in Pakistan to carry out research and development in photovoltaics. It will create a laboratory at the Government College University (GCU) in Lahore to support research on photovoltaics, including through the use of novel, nontraditional approaches to be introduced by the U.S. partner. If successful, these approaches could reduce barriers to efficient large-scale production of organic photovoltaics. By helping to establish the necessary materials characterization facilities at GCU and training Pakistani researchers, the project will create a new focal point for organic photovoltaic research that will serve as a resource for scientists and engineers throughout the country and facilitate the country’s efforts to address its critical energy needs in a sustainable manner. In order to help bring beginning Pakistani researchers into this effort, the U.S. partner Dr. Shah will teach several short courses at GCU, and several undergraduate and graduate students from both sides will be involved in the research related to the proposed study and will visit each other’s universities. By working together on this three-year project, the participants will build personal and professional ties as they work on a scientific project of mutual interest.
One of the main goals for this past year was to find alternatives for one of the main components of organic solar cells (OSCs) and evaluate the performance of the solar cells with the addition of these alternatives. The researchers have synthesized TiO2 and ZnO nanoparticles through chemical methods to work as additives to the OSCs and substitute PCBM. The experiments were successful with up to 40% by weight substitution of PCBM with TiO2, ZnO or a combination thereof. One paper resulting from the work based on this work has already been submitted and is under revision. Another paper is in the final stages of completion and will be submitted for review shortly.
Another area of research this past year was related to the diffusion of aluminum in the active layer of the device. A typical OSC is fabricated on glass with a transparent-conducting oxide (TCO) layer on it. TCO allows the light to go through and at the same time provides a conducting path to the external circuit. The other contact is placed on top of the active layer in OSC to draw the electrons out to the external circuit. This is typically an aluminum electrode. After fabrication, the whole device is annealed at 160 C in order to crystallize the active layer. However, this annealing also causes aluminum to diffuse into the active layer. If this diffusion is only limited in extent, the resistance to the contact is reduced which is good for the device. If, however, the aluminum penetrates deeper, there is a possibility of shorting. To avoid this it is important to measure the diffusivity of Al in the active layer. They have measured this diffusivity by determining the concentration on aluminum across the device and utilizing a very well-known model for diffusion. The work is now complete and a paper based on this work is ready to be submitted for review very shortly.
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2011 Show summary || Hide summary || Download full report
Ms. Syeda Amber Yousaf at the Inert Gas Condensation System
Dr. Shah has engaged two PhD students at the University of Delaware to work on the project. The focus of their work is to establish and optimize a protocol for fabricating photovoltaic cells meeting certain efficiency standards. Two PhD students were also recruited on the Pakistani side, and they have carried out a literature review as part of the process of planning their dissertation projects. The project was further facilitated by Dr. Shah's participation in an invited workshop on polymer solar cells held at the Nathiagali Summer College in Islamabad July 4-9, 2011. He had expected Dr. Ali and one of his PhD students, Ms. Syeda Amber Yousaf, to visit Delaware for training immediately following this workshop. Unfortunately, Dr. Ali’s planned visit had to be postponed until 2012 due to several months of delay in his visa application process. However, Ms. Yousaf received her visa on time and spent July 12 through August 13, 2011, at the University of Delaware, receiving training on all aspects of OPV device fabrication and characterization. After returning to Pakistan she helped to set up the new equipment purchased for her lab, including a glove box for solar cell fabrication, a vacuum oven, a spectrophotometer, and a viscometer. With all the equipment in place, she is training other members of her lab on the new techniques she learned in Delaware. The two research groups will have further opportunities to interact when Dr. Shah and at least one of his PhD students will visit Lahore for a National Science Foundation-sponsored conference he is co-organizing December 1-3, 2011. While in Lahore, they will also get an opportunity to work with the Pakistani team in their lab to make sure their new equipment is functioning well.
UDaily: Solar cell research at UD may impact Pakistan
UDMessenger: Solar cell research to benefit Pakistan's remote villages
2012 Show summary || Hide summary || Download full report
During the first quarter of 2012, the focused ion beam (FIB) work continued at the University of Delaware. In March 2012, Dr. Shah paid a brief visit to the Solar Cell Applications Research Laboratory at GCU in Lahore, during which he discussed the progress of the overall research activities as well as the individual efforts of two PhD students and one MS student who are involved in the project. The Lab was inaugurated in February 2012, and with its state-of-the-art equipment it provides an excellent research platform for GCU faculty and students alike. During his visit, Dr. Shah also participated in collaborative discussions involving his GCU colleagues and scientists from the Pakistan Council for Renewable Energy Technology (PCRET). The latter organization recently fabricated its first solar cell, which has been analyzed in the newly established lab at GCU.
Dr. Shah visited GC University twice in 2012. During his first visit in March, he met with Pakistani PI Dr. Salamat Ali and his students and visited the newly established Photovoltaics Lab in the Physics Department at GCU. On his second visit in May, several educational activities were carried out, including 1) a one-day workshop on thin-film processes in the Department of Physics at GCU; 2) a two-day hands-on joint workshop at the COMSATS Institute of Information Science and Technology and at Quaid-i-Azam University in Islamabad; 3) a seminar at the National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST) in Islamabad; 4) an invited talk at the Forum on Water Conservation, Treatment, and Purification in Islamabad; 5) a seminar on "Solar Cell Fabrication and Characterization at the Department of Physics, University of Bahawalpur ; 6) a one-day workshop on thin films at the Lahore College of Women University; and 7) a visit to the Institute of Solid State Physics at Punjab University, Lahore.
Following up on her training visit to Delaware during the summer of 2011, Ms. Syeda Amber Yousaf of GCU received the good news that her PhD synopsis was approved by the university's Board of Advanced Study and Research in April 2012. Later that month, Dr. Salamat Ali began a two-week visit to the United States, during which he participated in training activities and collaborative research in Dr. Shah's lab at the University of Delaware. Later this year the US team is expecting another Pakistani visitor, PhD student Muhammad Ikram, whose PhD synopsis was also approved in April. He is expected to arrive in Dr. Shah's lab in October 2012 pending receipt of his visa.
In addition to the exchange visits outlined above, Dr. Ali and his students have begun working with several new instruments added to their lab thanks to funds from this project. Besides their work with Dr. Shah, they have also expanded their efforts with other Pakistani researchers. A meeting was held at the Pakistan Council for Renewable Energy Technologies (PCRET)
in Islamabad to discuss various ways of collaboration as well as the present status of the organic photovoltaic (OPV) research community in Pakistan. After the meeting, Dr. Afzal Kamboh from PCRET visited GCU for three days for fruitful discussions and training. In the next few months, Dr. Ali and his research team expect to purchase several additional pieces of lab equipment once their Year 2 grant funds are received. They are also working on several technical improvements, and two papers are expected to be published this year.
2013 Show summary || Hide summary || Download full report
During the last quarter of 2012 and first quarter of 2013, the focused ion beam (FIB) work continued at the University of Delaware (UD). Two PhD students and one female undergraduate student are working on this project. Based on results of their work, two papers were published in professional journals: Journal of Applied Physics and Solar Energy Materials & Solar Cells (SolMat); a third paper was recently submitted to SolMat. The UD group hosted the third visitor from GCU. PhD student Muhammad Ikram will spend 6 weeks (Feb. 19- Apr 4) working on environmentally benign oxides. The team expects this work to yield one or two additional papers. In July-August timeframe, the U.S. PI and one graduate student from UD will travel to Pakistan to conduct a 2-day “hands-on” workshop on how to synthesize and characterize solar cells. At the newly established Solar Applications Research Lab at GCU, a new piece of equipment for measuring quantum efficiency was recently ordered after late release of year 2 Pakistani funds. The PhD Student currently at the UD lab is being trained on this equipment and the Pakistani PI will also receive training during his visit to Delaware in Nov-Dec 2013. Project paper was presented at the first Pakistan-U.S. S&T Symposium on Technology Transfer held in Islamabad on January 31-February 1, 2013. Major difficulty encountered by the GCU lab involved a year delay in release of year 2 Pakistani funding which severely handicapped the project causing delay in major equipment purchase. In addition, extended visa processing delay of Mr. Ikram PhD student resulted in UD having to issue the DS-2019 twice.
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