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Micro-scale Optimized Solar-cell Arrays with Integrated Concentration

ARPA-E's MOSAIC program seeks to develop technologies and concepts that will lower the cost of solar photovoltaic (PV) power systems and improve their performance. Project teams will develop micro-scale concentrated photovoltaic systems (CPV) that are similar in cost and size to conventional solar PV systems, but with greatly increased performance levels. Multidisciplinary teams will leverage expertise in conventional flat-plate PV, CPV, manufacturing, optical engineering, and material science to produce a new class of PV panels. If successful, these technologies could facilitate cost-effective deployment of solar power systems across a wide range of geographical locations, lowering U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and reducing dependence on imported energy.
 For a detailed technical overview about this program, please click here.  

California Institute of Technology

Micro-Optical Tandem Luminescent Solar Concentrator

Researchers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and their partners will design and fabricate a new CPV module with features that can capture both direct and diffuse sunlight. The team's approach uses a luminescent solar concentrator (LSC) sheet that includes quantum dots to capture and re-emit sunlight, micro-PV cells matched to the color of the light from the quantum dots, and a coating of advanced materials that enhance concentration and delivery of sunlight to the micro-PV cells. In addition, the light not captured by the quantum dots will impinge on a tandem solar cell beneath the LSC sheet. The design of the LSC will focus on lowering the number of expensive micro-PV cells needed within the concentrator sheet, which will reduce system costs, but still maintain high efficiency. The design will also allow the module to be effective without any tracking system, making it potentially attractive for all PV markets, including space-constrained rooftops.

George Washington University

Micro-Scale Ultra-High Efficiency CPV/Diffuse Hybrid Arrays Using Transfer Printing

George Washington University (GWU) and their partners will develop a hybrid CPV concept that combines highly efficient multi-junction solar cells and low-cost single-junction solar cells. When direct sunlight hits the lens array, it is concentrated 1000-fold and is focused onto the multi-junction solar cells. Diffuse light not captured in this process is instead captured by the low-cost single-junction solar cells. The module design is lightweight, fewer than 10 mm thick, and has a profile similar to conventional FPV. Moreover, the combination of the two types of cells increases efficiency. GWU will use its expertise in micro-transfer printing to fabricate and assemble the multi-junction cells. This process will reduce manufacturing costs and further increase efficiency.

Glint Photonics, Inc.

Stationary Wide-Angle Concentrator PV System

Glint Photonics in collaboration with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), will develop a stationary wide-angle concentrator (SWAC) PV system. The SWAC concentrates light onto multi-junction solar cells, which efficiently convert sunlight into electrical energy. A sheet of arrayed PV cells moves passively within the module to maximize sunlight capture throughout the day. Two innovations allow this tracking to occur smoothly and without the expense or complexity of an active control system or a mechanical tracker. First, a fluidic suspension mechanism enables nearly frictionless movement of the sheet embedded in the module. Second, a thermal-gradient-driven alignment mechanism uses a tiny fraction of the collected energy to drive the movement of the sheet and keep it precisely aligned. Glint will develop the novel optical and fluidic components of the SWAC, while NREL will develop custom multi-junction solar cells for the prototype modules.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Integrated Micro-Optical Concentrator Photovoltaics with Lateral Multijunction Cells

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) with partner Arizona State University will develop a new concept for PV power generation that achieves the 30% conversion efficiency associated with traditional concentrated PV systems while maintaining the low cost, low profile, and lightweight of conventional FPV modules. MIT aims to combine three technologies to achieve their goals: a dispersive lens system, laterally arrayed multiple bandgap (LAMB) solar cells, and a low-cost power management system. The dispersive lens concentrates and separates light that passes through it, providing 400-fold concentration for direct sunlight and 3-fold concentration for diffuse sunlight. The dispersive lens is a thin layer consisting of inexpensive, lightweight materials that can be manufactured at low cost using plastic molding, an improvement over traditional methods. The lens focuses the direct light onto the array of LAMB solar cells, while also focusing the diffuse light onto common PV cells integrated beneath the LAMB array. The power management system combines power from multiple cells into a single output so that the power from a panel of LAMB arrays can be processed with grid-interface power electronics, enabling as much as 20% additional energy capture in applications where the roof is partially shaded.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Wafer-Level Integrated Concentrating Photovoltaics

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) with partner Sandia National Laboratories will develop a micro-CPV system. The team's approach integrates optical concentrating elements with micro-scale solar cells to enhance efficiency, reduce material and fabrication costs, and significantly reduce system size. The team's key innovation is the use of traditional silicon PV cells for more than one function. These traditional cells lay on a silicon substrate that has etched reflective cavities with high-performance micro-PV cells on the cavity floor. Light entering the system will hit a primary concentrator that then directs light into the reflective cavities and towards the high performance micro-PV cells. Diffuse light, which most CPV technologies do not capture, is collected by the lower performance silicon PV cells. The proposed technology could provide 40-55% more energy than conventional FPV and 15-40% more energy than traditional CPV with a significantly reduced system cost, because of the ability to collect both direct and diffuse light in a thin form factor.

Palo Alto Research Center

Micro-Chiplet Printer for MOSAIC

Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), along with Sandia National Laboratory (SNL) will develop a prototype printer with the potential to enable economical, high-volume manufacturing of micro-PV cell arrays. This project will focus on creating a printing technology that can affordably manufacture micro-CPV system components. The envisioned printer would drastically lower assembly costs and increase manufacturing efficiency of micro-CPV systems. Leveraging their expertise in digital copier assembly, PARC intends to create a printer demonstration that uses micro-CPV cells or "chiplets" as the "ink" and arranges the chiplets in a precise, predefined location and orientation, similar to how a document printer places ink on a page. SNL will provide micro-scaled photovoltaic components to be used as the "ink," and the PARC system will "print" panel-sized micro-CPV substrates with digitally placed and interconnected PV cells. This micro-chiplet printer technology may reduce the assembly cost of micro-CPV systems by orders of magnitude, making them cost competitive with conventional FPV. To demonstrate the effectiveness of the printer, the project team will investigate two types of backplanes (electronically connected PV arrays arranged on a surface): one with a single type of micro-PV cell, and one with at least two types of micro-PV cells.

Panasonic R&D Company of America

Low Profile CPV Panel with Sun Tracking for Rooftop Installation

Panasonic Boston Laboratory will develop a micro-CPV system that features a micro-tracking subsystem. This micro-tracking subsystem will eliminate the need for bulky trackers, allowing fixed mounting of the panel. The micro-tracking allows individual lenses containing PV cells to move within the panel. As the sun moves throughout the day, the lenses align themselves to the best position to receive sunlight, realizing the efficiency advantages of CPV without the cumbersome tilting of the entire panel. The Panasonic Boston Laboratory team will examine a number of methods to allow the individual lenses to track the sunlight. Each panel will be comparable in thickness and cost to a traditional FPV panel.

Pennsylvania State University

Wide-Angle Planar Microtracking Microcell Concentrating Photovoltaics

Pennsylvania State University (Penn State), along with their partner organizations, will develop a high efficiency micro-CPV system that features the same flat design of traditional solar panels, but with nearly twice the efficiency. The system is divided into three layers. The top and bottom layers use a refractive/reflective pair of tiny spherical lens arrays to focus sunlight onto a micro-CPV cell array in the center layer. The micro-CPV arrays will be printed on a transparent sheet that slides laterally between the top and bottom layer to ensure that the maximum amount of sunlight is delivered to the micro-PV cell throughout the day. Advanced manufacturing using high-throughput printing techniques will help reduce the cost of the micro-CPV cell arrays and allow the team to create five-junction micro-PV cells that can absorb a broader range of light and promote greater efficiency. By concentrating and focusing sunlight on a specific advanced micro-PV cell, the system can achieve much higher efficiency than standard FPV panels, while maintaining a similar flat panel architecture.

Texas Engineering Experiment Station

Waveguiding Solar Concentrator

Texas Engineering Experiment Station (TEES) and their partners will build a micro-CPV system that incorporates waveguide technology. A waveguide concentrates and directs light to a specific point. TEES's system uses a grid of waveguides to concentrate sunlight onto a set of coupling elements which employ a 45 degree turning mirror to further concentrate the light and increase the efficiency of the system. Each coupling element is oriented to direct its specific beam of light towards high-efficiency, multi-junction solar cells. Further system efficiency is gained by capturing diffuse light in a secondary layer. The system also includes a secondary layer that captures diffuse sunlight, increasing its overall efficiency.

University of Arizona

A High Efficiency Flat Plate PV with Integrated Micro-CPV Atop a 1-Sun Panel

University of Arizona will develop a micro-CPV system that combines a CPV cell with dual-sided FPV panels to capture direct, diffuse, and reflected sunlight. The team's system will feature lenses that focus sunlight onto a horizontal waveguide, which further concentrates the light onto high-performance micro-CPV solar cells. Dual-sided solar panels, attached beneath the CPV cells, enable diffuse light collection on one side and reflected light collection on the other side. The system will be mounted on a two-axis tracker that will allow for optimal collection of sunlight throughout the day.

University of Rochester

Planar Light Guide Concentrated Photovoltaics

The University of Rochester along with partners Arzon Solar and RPC Photonics will develop a micro-CPV system based on Planar Light Guide (PLG) solar concentrators. The PLG uses a top lenslet layer to focus and concentrate sunlight towards injection facets. These facets guide and redirect light, like a mirror, towards a PV cell at the edge of the device. Combined, these methods lead to higher efficiency over conventional FPV systems. At fewer than 3 mm thick, the system will be thin and flat, similar to traditional FPV panels. The PLG system also reduces complexity and costs by only requiring PV cells at the edge of the device, instead of an array of thousands of micro-PV cells. The team will also develop a scalable fabrication technique that uses grayscale lithography to produce the micro-optics.
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