FOM awards funding to two projects within the Joint Solar Programme

10 July 2014

The FOM Foundation has awarded funding to two projects within the Joint Solar Programme. This programme aims to drastically increase the yield of solar cells and to reduce the costs of solar electricity. Professor Richard van de Sanden (DIFFER) will lead a project to improve the storage capacity of lithium ion batteries with the help of silicon nanocrystals. Project leader Wilfried van Sark (Utrecht University) wants to increase the yield of luminescent solar concentrators, a possible cheap alternative for traditional solar panels. The total budget of the two projects is €178,000. FOM, part of NWO, will contribute €100,000 and the rest will come from the industrial partners Roth & Rau BV and AdTech.

The new projects will bring previous results from the Joint Solar Programme closer to an application. FOM is financing the projects with the so-called TKI allowance that it has been awarded by the Top Consortium for Knowledge and Innovation of the Top Sector High-Tech Systems and Materials. The TKI allowance is an incentive measure from the Dutch government for public-private partnerships. The Joint Solar Programme in which FOM is collaborating with various industrial partners is a good example of such a partnership. On FOM's YouTube channel you can find a short video clip about Physics & Industry at FOM.

Summaries of the two projects awarded funding are given below.

Plasma Processing of Silicon Nanocrystals at Scalable Throughputs for High-Capacity Lithium-Ion Battery Applications
Project leader: Prof. Richard van de Sanden (DIFFER) Industrial partner: Roth & Rau BV
Total budget: €125,000 to which FOM is contributing €55,000

Researchers from FOM institute DIFFER, Eindhoven University of Technology and Roth & Rau want to increase the storage capacity of lithium ion batteries with the help of silicon nanocrystals. For this the physicists are developing a technique that will make the large-scale production of anodes from silicon nanocrystals possible. These anodes could improve the capacity of lithium ion batteries up to a factor of ten. That would have a major impact on energy storage in electric vehicles, for example. Project leader professor Richard van de Sanden (director DIFFER): "Efficiently storing sustainable energy is one of the most important challenges for the transition to sustainable energy sources. With this project we want to make a big jump forwards to batteries with a high capacity. The final goal of the research is the construction of a prototype that we can hand over to industry."

The three partners will investigate how they can synthesize silicon nanocrystals in a plasma (an ionised gas). A post-doc within the Plasma and Materials Processing research group of Eindhoven University of Technology will investigate the large-scale production of silicon crystals and test how these behave when they are repeatedly charged and discharged with lithium. The industrial partner Roth & Rau is specialised in advanced production techniques and will provide access to a plasma setup that can produce silicon nanocrystals on an industrial scale.

Record efficiency of quantum dot luminescent solar concentrator
Project leader: Dr Wilfried van Sark (Utrecht University)
Industrial partner: AdTech
Total budget: €53,000 to which FOM is contributing €45,000

With this project researchers from Utrecht University, Eindhoven University of Technology and the Italian company Adtech want to increase the conversion efficiency of luminescent solar concentrators (LSCs). These devices are a cheap alternative for traditional silicon solar panels. The record conversion efficiency for LSCs is currently 7.1 percent but that record dates from 2008. This lack of progress is mainly due to various loss factors that limit the efficiency of the LSCs.

In recent years, scientists have worked hard on a solution for one of the most important loss factors in LSCs, namely self- absorption. In an LSC, sunlight is absorbed by luminophores that subsequently emit light with a certain amount of red shift (a longer wavelength). A different luminophore can subsequently absorb the red-shifted light if the absorption and emission spectrums strongly overlap. During the previous project 'Towards low-cost luminescent solar concentrators' within the Joint Solar Programme, PhD researcher Zachar Krumer demonstrated that type II quantum dots are not sensitive to self-absorption.

Project leader Wilfried van Sark: "With the new project we want to improve the record conversion efficiency of LSCs by using very stable, high-quality type II quantum dots in a liquid LSC. We hope to achieve an efficiency of ten percent.”

Source: FOM

Further information

NWO, Information and Communication Department, tel.: +31 70 344 07 41