Fraunhofer is rewarded with the European Innovation Prize
Press Release Oct 27, 2010
For the second time in history a research organization is rewarded with the EARTO Innovation Prize. The prize honors research that has a high potential for future applications in economy and society. This year a team developing new solar cells receives the award.
»We are honored by the reward given to Fraunhofer,« states Prof. Ulrich Buller, member of the Fraunhofer Executive Board, who took the prize during the ceremony in Brussels. Currently 350 Research and Technology Organizations throughout Europe are members of the EARTO, the European Association of Research and Technology Organisations.
The awarded research was done by a team of scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE in Freiburg. Dr. Andreas Bett and his colleagues developed concentrator solar cells with almost double the efficiency levels of conventional silicon-based cells. This was possible by stacking three different solar cells monolithically on top of each other, thus using almost the entire solar spectrum for energy production. The unique cells have established a new benchmark.
Solar energy, a clean, silent, harmless and limitless source of power, is expected to play a crucial role in the energy mix of the 21st century. If it is to realize its full potential, however, solar cell technology must become more efficient and cost-effective. Scientists at the ISE were convinced that a metamorphic triple-junction solar cell structure consisting of III-V compound semiconductors could challenge the existing efficiency record. By stacking multiple top-quality solar cells on top of each other on a substrate of germanium, the team created a triple-junction solar cell structure better adapted to the spectrum of wavelengths found in sunlight. This way a record-efficiency of 41.1 percent was achieved. These highly efficient cells are applied in concentrator modules which also have been developed by the researchers at Fraunhofer ISE. The result is a new high concentration photovoltaic technology.
To facilitate the swift transfer of technology from the laboratory to industry, a demonstration laboratory was constructed at the Fraunhofer Institute, with the same machines that would be used in industry. Here, researchers are developing and testing production processes for the construction and connection technology, module integration and quality control. A spin-out of ISE – Concentrix Solar GmbH – today produces the concentrator systems that, for example, feed solar power into the grid from a solar park in Spain with 25 percent system efficiency. For the development of metamorphic triple-junction solar cells, the team has been closely collaborating for years with AZUR Space Solar Power in Heilbronn, the leading European manufacturer of solar cells for space. This partner is aiming to bring the highly efficient solar cells to the market by 2011.
»The EARTO Innovation Prize is awarded to RTOs, Research and Technology Organizations, in recognition of their contribution to an innovation of significant economic and social impact. This years’ edition was no different. Once more, the level of the competition was high and submitted projects were excellent examples of what RTOs do best: relevant and targeted innovations creating growth and addressing the Grand Challenges of our time«, concludes President of EARTO, Prof. Erkki KM Leppävuori.