Microwaving Photovoltaic MaterialCategory: Science & Technology
Posted: August 31, 2012 06:37AM
That almost ubiquitous appliance, the microwave oven, may soon be playing a role in creating inexpensive solar cells. To get the most out of some materials, one must heat it up but conventional means of doing so are inefficient. This led researchers at Oregon State University to investigate microwave ovens, which can do the job quickly and with less power than other methods.
The photovoltaic material being microwaved is copper zinc tin sulfide, which is less toxic and expensive than some alternatives. It can be used to create thin film solar cells that are printed by something like an inkjet printer. To accelerate the reactions needed to make the sprayed on ink a working solar cell, the researchers placed the cells into a microwave oven, which did the trick in just minutes or seconds.
This technique to heat the material could really help keep costs down, because of how fast it works, how little energy it takes, and how easily it can scale up for mass production. It also offers very precise control over the heating process and the reactions needed to make the solar cell functional.