Advanced Materials

The areas of strength in advanced materials research in the the mechanical engineering department are: (i) CdTe solar cells, (ii) Composite  Materials, and (iii) bio-materials. The research in composites materials and bio-materials are discussed elsewhere. The Materials Engineering Lab (MEL) has been at the forefront of CdTe photovoltaic manufacturing technology development since 1991. Numerous pieces of equipment and processes have been developed for synthesis and testing of photovoltaic devices. These include:

  • Facilities for measuring film thickness
  • Clean room mini-environment for substrate preparation and automated cleaning
  • Spray metallization for back electrode formation
  • Fabrication facilities for small area device fabrication and analysis
  • Accelerated Lifetime Testing (ALT) of devices under automated high illumination and high temperature cycling
  • Exposing and testing devices under outdoor conditions emulating sealed modules
  • Device characterization including dark JV, light JV, CV, CF, TAS, TID, PHCAP etc. and the capability to perform these as a function of temperature using a cryostat

The recently completed Advanced Deposition System (ADS) provides a process-flexible, customizable test bed for producing complete devices on 3 inch by 3 inch or smaller substrates. Completed in August 2010, the system has already produced several hundred unique samples for a variety of research projects and for process optimization. Execution of process sequences is computer-controlled for maximum repeatability and precision using a magnetic transfer arm. The substrate can be moved in any sequence and any combination of process times into 9 different sources. This flexibility provides for rapid process optimization using prototype sources.

The ADS is in continual use and provides tens of completed substrates and hundreds of individual cells each week for a variety of projects and process-optimization studies. Figure 1 shows the ADS system schematic. The magnetic transfer arm can move the substrate to any deposition station for any period of time, allowing for wide process flexibility.

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Other Featured Projects

National Science Foundation Next Generation Photovoltaics Center at CSU
Dr. W.S. Sampath, site director of the National Science Foundation Next Generation Photovoltaics Center at Colorado State University, has been working on advancing cadmium telluride (CdTe) Photovoltaics for more than 20 years at CSU. Along with Dr. Kurt Barth, the associate site director of the NGPV Center, the overall vision is to help establish PV electricity as a major source of energy in the United States and the world by leveraging cutting-edge research.

The New School of Advanced Materials Discovery
The SAMD is on schedule to complete final approval hurdles, and plans to admit graduate students in Fall 2016. Engaging students in this expanding field through and new and exciting program is the goal of the SAMD.

CSU’s dynamic and extensive materials and manufacturing research is only magnified by today’s heightened interest in advanced materials solutions that significantly inpact basic human needs like energy, transportation, health, food distribution, and more.

Materials Engineering Laboratory
The Mechanical Engineering Department’s Materials Engineering Lab (MEL) under the direction of Prof. W.S. Sampath has been in the forefront of CdTe photovoltaic manufacturing technology development since 1991. Numerous pieces of equipment and processes have been developed for synthesis and testing of photovoltaic devices.

Composite Materials, Relating Macroscopic Failure to the Material Structure
Failure in composite materials and structures can often be traced back to defects introduced during the manufacture of the component, at the materials-level. Studies investigating the relationship of mechanical performance of fiber reinforced composite structures to the material itself can involve full-scale component testing, laboratory coupon testing and microstructural investigation. The results of such research can point to changes during processing that can improve the overall structural properties through an improved understanding of key features of the microstructure.