Thanks to its expertise, the Nanochemistry Department of Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia is one of the partners of the Scalenano Project funded within the ENERGY programme of the European Commission. The Project aims to achieve a breakthrough in the cost efficiency of photovoltaic devices and modules based on advanced thin film technologies in order to increase the European competitiveness of existing PV technologies. The project runs from February 2012 until July 2015.
The project involves an interdisciplinary consortium formed by 13 European partners, coordinated by the Catalonia Institute for Energy Research, to which the IIT Nanochemistry Department, directed by Liberato Manna, will provide the expertise to characterize the material’s chemical composition. The main goal of the project is to develop and scale-up an innovative PV technology based on chalcogenide (a group of chemical compounds of Copper Indium Gallium Selenide with photoelectrical properties) and using environmentally friendly and sustainable processes with lower costs and higher efficiencies.
The new photovoltaic technologies will be based on Copper Indium Gallium Selenide (CIGS), commonly used for application in solar energy, which the SCALENANO project aims to innovate at both technology and device conception level.
The PV technologies based on CIGS have already entered the stage of mass production. However, current production methods typically rely on costly, difficult to control over large surfaces, vacuum-based deposition processes that require initial high capital expenditure, compromising the potential reduction of material costs inherent to thin film technologies. Therefore SCALENANO will develop alternative environmental friendly and vacuum free processes, based on the more economical electrodepositon of nanostructured precursors.
“The SCALENANO Consortium is very interdisciplinary and our scientific contribution will be focused on the production of nanoparticles with specific and controlled characteristics in order to obtain a new material adequate for ink formulation and for the definition of sintering processes” declares Liberato Manna, director of the IIT Department of Nanochemistry. “These nanoparticles will be the starting point for producing the active material of the final photovoltaic devices”.
The Department of Nanochemistry of IIT will be responsible for the production and characterization of CIGS nanoparticles, pursuing environmentally friendly synthetic routes. Their composition, size, shape and the crystallographic structure will be studied in the labs of the Department, by means of advanced techniques: Transmission electron microscopy (TEM), high-resolution TEM, Raman spectroscopy and x-ray diffraction (XRD), X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS), energy dispersive x-ray spectroscopy (EDX), electron energy loss spectroscopy (EELS) and inductively coupled plasma optical spectroscopy (ICP).
The SCALENANO Consortium partners are: IREC -Catalonia Institute for Energy Research (Spain), EMPA-Swiss Federal Laboratories Materials Science and Technology (Switzerland), IIT-Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (Italy), CEA-Commissariat à l’Energie Atomique et aux Energies Alternatives (France), HZB-Helmholtz Zentrum Berlin (Germany), UNOTT-University of Notthingham (UK), UL-Université de Luxembourg (Luxemburg), SUPSI-Scuola Universitaria Professionale della Svizzera Italiana (Switzerland), Free University Berlin (Germany) and four companies from different sectors: Merck KGaA (Chemical), NEXCIS (Photovoltaics), IMPT (Thin film technologies), Semilab (Metrology).