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A new tunable light source that will boost the development of photovoltaic technologies

An ICMAB-CSIC team has developed and patented an illumination device with a customised spectrum, which can change the intensity and range of colours, depending on every single application. It allows for the complete characterisation of optoelectronic materials and devices with a single device. Winner of the EmErgEnt award, the device will boost the development of many photovoltaic technologies. Scientists are now looking for industrial partners.

SOLS equipment emitting light in different colours | ICMAB, CSIC

Solar simulators are devices used to test and determine the power conversion efficiency of solar cells. They do so with a broadband spectrum adjusted to standard sunlight. However, sunlight is not the same in Mediterranean countries as in Nordic countries, nor are the illumination conditions the same, as this depends on where the solar panels are located: outdoors or indoors, under the water, in valleys or mountains, etc.

To develop new photovoltaic materials adapted to each of these situations, a specific light source is needed, depending on where and what they will be used for. On the other hand, characterisation of the different optoelectronic properties of materials is currently carried out with different equipment for each case. Sometimes broadband and sometimes narrowband illumination is needed. Other times the illumination must be homogeneous across an area or colour-separated. To cover all scenarios, a different equipment with a specific light spectrum is needed, which is very costly.

A team from the Institute of Materials Science of Barcelona (ICMAB) has developed and patented an illumination device capable of producing a light beam whose spectrum can be shaped on demand by varying the intensity and range of colours, adapting it to match the lighting conditions. In addition, it combines the functionalities of several instruments for photovoltaic characterisation of materials and devices in a single device, making it a very cost-effective proposition.

The development, called "SOLS: Spectrum On Demand Light Source", has been awarded with the EmErgEnt prize, of the Clúster de l'Energia Eficient de Catalunya.

"The device makes it possible to generate a light beam with fully tunable intensity and colour properties, which will accelerate the development of a wide range of photovoltaic technologies. Specifically, the instrument makes it possible to evaluate materials to optimise photovoltaic cells exposed to different light spectra, such as that found in the tropics or near the poles, in the mountains, in space, under the sea, with artificial light (for IoT applications) or in agrovoltaics,' explains Mariano Campoy-Quiles, one of the ICMAB-CSIC scientists who developed the device.

The team members are the ICMAB-CSIC researchers Alejandro Goñi (ICREA Research Prof.), Mariano Campoy-Quiles, Miquel Casademont, and project manager Eulàlia Pujades.

Special prisms and custom-made mirrors

The device works by splitting an incoming broadband light beam into its spectral components. To do this, it uses special prisms and custom-made mirrors. The beam then passes through a spatial filtering stage, which modifies the intensity of each colour separately. Finally, the beam is condensed again to provide either a homogeneous illumination with the desired spectrum or a rainbow of spatially separated colours.

This device can be used for applications in photovoltaic technologies, but also in solar thermal applications, photocatalysis, light degradation studies on materials...

The device works by splitting an incoming broadband light beam into its spectral components. To do this, it uses special prisms and custom-made mirrors. The beam then passes through a spatial filtering stage, which modifies the intensity of each colour separately. Finally, the beam is condensed again to provide either a homogeneous illumination with the desired spectrum or a rainbow of spatially separated colours.

This compact device enables different types of PV characterisation that currently have to be performed with different instruments, including power conversion efficiency (PCE), external quantum efficiency (EQE), recombination or indoor efficiency measurements. It enables fast computer-assisted spectrum modification as well as new modes of characterisation, such as tandem solar cell optimisation, advanced stability testing, etc.

It can be used for applications in photovoltaic technologies, but also in solar thermal applications, photocatalysis, light degradation studies on materials, etc.

"For the group of people behind SOLS, the most important thing about winning the EmErgEnt award is the recognition of the innovative potential of the idea and for all the effort and work associated with the project. It is also worth noting that this award has helped to give visibility to the SOLS project, which gives us more credibility and reputation when looking for potential partners, companies and interested investors...", says Alejandro Goñi, member of the team.

Contact:

Alfonso del Rey
ICMAB -CSIC
Tel.: +34 935801853
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