More efficient solar panels thanks to the BRIDGE programme

Engineers from CSEM, EPFL and EMPA are developing a new technology for industrial use. It will increase the efficiency of photovoltaic panels.

​​​​​​​​Imagine a new coating that makes the solar panels we currently use up to 30% more efficient in future. Thanks to the "Power" project, we are closer to reality than fiction in this respect. Indeed, teams from the Swiss Center for Electronics and Microtechnology (CSEM) and the EPFL branch in Neuchâtel as well as from EMPA in Zurich are working hard to ensure that this new technology will see the light of day, with plans to launch it on the market by 2025 and deploy it on a large scale.

"Photovoltaic modules nowadays are very technically advanced, cost-effective and reliable products. Nevertheless, we have the opportunity to further reduce the costs of solar electricity by increasing the efficiency of these devices," says Matthieu Despeisse, Area Manager and Manager of the PV-Center at CSEM, who is in charge of the project. It is financed under the BRIDGE Discovery funding scheme conducted by Innosuisse and the SNSF.

New combination

More precisely, the project consists of combining solar cells made of a material exhibiting a so-called perovskite structure with solar cells that are usually used. Numerous research projects on perovskites have been under way around the world for years. The research conducted in the "Power" project focuses in particular on the development of this material. "Developing a new generation of solar cells often means working with completely new light-absorbing materials. The structure and behaviour - whether mechanical or electronic - of this material can be very different from what has previously been used," explains Arnaud Walter, engineer at CSEM

Funding that builds bridges

He and others working on the project are seeking to develop the new generation of solar cells, up to sizes that will be suitable for industrial production, while ensuring that their performance is proven stable in the laboratory regardless of temperature and humidity. This stage usually requires the development of new techniques. Arnaud Walter: "In this sense, the BRIDGE programme is the perfect vehicle to help us make the step from basic research to the industrialisation activities we are currently undertaking."

BRIDGE Discovery provides financial support to researchers who are experienced in both basic and applied research and who wish to turn the innovative potential of their research results into reality. According to Matthieu Despeisse, this programme makes it possible to demonstrate the industrial viability of the initial idea. "The research steps needed to meet the challenges of scale-up, reliability and industrial manufacturing materials and processes are given the funding they need."

Using the strengths of the network

Around ten people are currently working on this project between the Neuchâtel and Zurich sites. It’s a great opportunity, says Arnaud Walter: "The possibility of having three fully equipped laboratories with people working together and interacting with each other is a huge competitive advantage. Every one of us has different strengths, which is a major asset for the project, as well as for the other partners."

"Power" is close to achieving technological success and is preparing to enter the industrialisation phase. Indeed, thanks to the results obtained so far and the potential of this new approach, development programmes with industrial partners are already in place.