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ARPA-E Extends NREL Funding For III-V Solar Project


Funding extended to reach 30 percent conversion efficiency with HVPE growth technique

ARPA-E (the US Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy) is extending its funding of a project to make III-V solar cells used on satellites and Mars rovers cheaper so they can also be made available for use on Earth.

The project, called 'Ultrahigh Efficiency Photovoltaics at Ultralow Costs' is led by Aaron Ptak, a senior scientist at the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). Ptak and his colleagues have pioneered a new growth technique called dynamic hydride vapour-phase epitaxy (D-HVPE). The initial research at NREL demonstrated the first multijunction solar cells using the HVPE growth technique.

ARPA-E invested $5.76 million — including $3.9 million directly to NREL — in Ptak's project. The funding was due to expire in April 2019 but has been extended for another six months. The NREL researchers promised ARPA-E they could produce a III-V solar cell with a 30 percent conversion efficiency; so far, it's at about 25 percent.

“There are just a couple of small hurdles that we need to tackle to get to 30 percent,” said Kevin Schulte, who, along with Ptak and John Simon (pictured above left with Kevin Schultz, and Aaron Ptak), are working on the D-HVPE project. “We understand what they are, and we don't think they're insurmountable. Technologically, it should work. I think we've proved that.”D-HVPE research has attracted additional funds from the US DoD for Ptak's team to develop a new reactor.

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