Solar research in Germany

The Intersolar week was so great, but also very intens. I absolutely loved meeting all the new people in the solar business. I learned so much in such a short week. After standing up all day, everyday, walking around, being super social and taking in so much new information – I needed some time to process it all. I needed to recharge.

So I went to Prague. It was only a 5 hour bus-ride from Munich, and the Czech Rep was also a new country for me. I spent the first day at a spa. A small, 12 euro one, (as this is a budget trip,) but still so cozy, warm and relaxing. The rest of the weekend was spent exploring the city. It´s a really pretty one! Just check this out:

Picturesque views of Prague
The beautiful city of Prague!
Enjoyed some ice cream art

This past week, my solar journey has been focused on solar-research. I have been lucky to visit two different solar research facilities in Germany, and thus had the opportunity to learn about two new fields within my profession! I find it so interesting to see the different points of view. Everyone I meet is an expert in their particular part of solar, and therefore naturally have their own views, focus points and opinions about it.

Halle, Germany. The home of two very interesting research facilities

The first company I visited was Fraunhofer CSP, located on the University Campus in Halle, a city close to Leipzig in Germany. We started the day by having a chat about what they are working on and what their company does. It was also really nice to share some views on the general solar business of today. After a long talk, we all went to lunch together.

Fraunhofer CSP

The rest of my time there, we spent in the laboratory. Fraunhofer CSP focuses on solar-module testing. That means they put modules through a lot of different stressers, and then run tests on how the modules reacted to the stressers. Temperature, heat/cooling, steam, and flashes are some examples of the stressers. The testing is run by special types of cameras to see how the module and the cells react. This way they can help their costumers improve their products. They also make some modules themselves, but their main focus is on testing.

Researchers from Fraunhofer showing me around in the research test-lab! They explained the different machines in which the modules are exposed to stressers. This particular machine is used to test large modules on temperatures.
Me testing exactly how light their lightweight modules are. They make their own modules as well sometimes, and try out different casings. This one didn’t weigh much more than a cardboard box.
Research for different uses of solar cells. Pretty cool project!
Scenic views in Halle, Germany.

The next day I spent with a company called CE Cell Engineering. While Fraunhofer CSP focuses on module testing, this company is actually developing a completely new solar cell processing step, that can make bad cells – turn good. How cool is that? This completely new technology has not yet reached the large scale commercial market, so they are all still a bit secretive about it. 

They also do different types of cells. Like this one with holes in it, would provide more light if it had a glass casing.

But this is basically how it works: Their technology, named LECO, is a process which improves cell-efficiency and repairs low-efficiency cells. It works by bringing solar cells through the LECO-process within the machine. Bad cells are brought up to normal scale efficiency. It can also make normal working cells even more efficient! 

Their goal is to commercially produce this machine, which can be put in as a part of the original cell-production. That way all cells can be more efficient from the very beginning. This method shows absolutely amazing results, and it´s so impressive looking at the before and after photos of the cells. 

Check this out: Electroluminescence Image of the same cell before (left) and after LECO process (right):

<5% efficiency
>20% efficiency
They also had a solar park on the roof of the laboratory! Making the company even greener!
Walking on sunshine, oooO

They told me how they came up with this ground-braking research idea by accidentally changing some parameters in a cell-test. And because of that, they discovered this completely new method for improving cell efficiency. How amazing is that? I think a lot of new research has begun as a result of similar circumstances. 

After they got the process patented, their research team is now working on their main goal; to produce a machine performing the LECO process, directly in the original cell factories. They have already made several prototypes, and has even sold some of them to costumers. 

They recently partnered up with a bigger company and are now working towards their goal. Can you imagine how great it must be to be a part of such groundbreaking research? From the very start? The team was clearly in love with their job, which makes them even more inspiring.

Me, Eva and Eckhard from the research team! (Yes, it was a bit windy)
Thanks for having me!

I feel so lucky to get completely new insight on how the solar business can, and will, evolve in the future. Both these companies work to make a better solar-powered world for today and tomorrow. This was my very first meeting with the research part of solar, and I feel that has given me a deeper foundation and understanding of solar.

Thank you both, for having me! Stay tuned for the next step of the solar adventure in Belgium!

– Christina

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