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European breakthrough in the creation of thermo-photovoltaic cells
The independent research center IMEC, headquartered in Belgium, reports major success in the development of germanium thermo-photovoltaic cells.
As it became known, scientists were able to create an economical version of elements based on germanium (Ge). Record values of photo-emf, conversion efficiency (AM1.5) and spectral sensitivity were achieved due to improved surface passivation and the use of a new contact insertion technology.
Thermophotovoltaic cells, which convert the radiation of heat sources that are less than the temperature of the sun, require materials with a lower energy gap than silicon, which is usually used for solar cells. According to this criterion, germanium is suitable as a material for the elements. However, the problem associated with the passivation of the cell surface made further developments difficult.
However, the significantly lower cost of germanium compared to other materials with a suitable energy gap inspired IMEC researchers to work in this direction in collaboration with Umicore, a leading manufacturer of germanium plates.
The emitter of the cells was formed by diffusion (by driving the oxide impurity), and the passivation was performed by vacuum plasma deposition of a thin layer of a-Si: H. Before deposition, the surface of germanium was subjected to external and internal cleaning. The contacts were formed by metal diffusion through the a-Si: H layer, which made it possible to accurately control the process and avoid the harmful effect of shunting.
As a result, the cells created by IMEC scientists demonstrated a photovoltage of 270 mV, the efficiency of AM1.5 about 8% and a spectral sensitivity range of 400-1700 nm. These values are significantly higher than previously achieved under equal lighting conditions.