According to Science Daily, Iowa state is working with PowerFilm Inc., an Ames company that manufactures thin, flexible solar cells. Powerfilm uses thin-film cells made from amorphous silicon that is about 2 micrometers thick compared to the 300 micrometers thick crystalline wafers used in conventional solar cells. The result is thin solar cells that can absorb lots of light and can be mounted on flexible plastic and other materials. But the thin cells produce about half the electricity as crystalline silicon. And their performance drops by about another 15 to 20 percent over time.
Iowa State researchers have made discoveries in materials science and plasma chemistry that can improve hydrogen bonding to the silicon in the thin solar cells, which can improve the performance of the cells by about 35 percent and eliminate about 15 percent of the drop in performance.
They're expected to be a potential boost to PowerFilm, the new techniques should work with essentially the same manufacturing processes and equipment now used by PowerFilm.