Photovoltaic Technology Research Laboratory


The Photovoltaic Research Laboratory (PVRL) desires to establish a world class research and education program at UNC Charlotte to attract young and talented minds in Science and Engineering to give USA a competitive advantage in the field of Photovoltaic Science, Engineering and Technology.

Areas of Expertise

ilicon solar cell - Degisn, modeling, analysis, fabrication and characterization.

III-V Light Emitting Diodes - Degisn, modeling, analysis, fabrication and characterization.

Research Highlights

Cost effective, high efficiency solar cells Improved understanding of solar cell layers Development of new, low-cost dielectrics for effective passivation of solar cells. Development of novel contacting schemes Optimization of inline process for <50 µm thick silicon application Investigation of the microstructures of Ag and Al metal pastes New module concepts and materials Systems integration and connectors

The new Photovoltaic Technology Research Laboratory, located at the Energy Production and Infrastructure Center, fosters the science and engineering of solar energy by partnering with industry leaders to produce more low-cost and efficient solar cells. Dr. Aba Ebong, professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, leads the lab and its "state-of-the-art equipment" that has been donated by the U.S. based company, TP Solar. The production laboratory equipment includes a RTP2 rapid thermal belt furnace, an in-line diffusion furnace and a screen printing system. The production lab is able to fabricate solar cells using the exact same methods as industry. A computational modeling and solar cell testing laboratory is also part of the new photovoltaic facility.

The facility provides students with the chance to learn how solar cells are produced from start to finish. The lab is already being used to teach the  ECGR 4290: Science and Engineering of Photovoltaic course. Dr. Ebong and his students are working with industrial partners to produce a number of ways to improve photovoltaic efficiency without any additional cost to production. Improvement methods include increasing the number of busbars to five from the standard three, using grid line segmentation to reduce metal shading to less than five percent and using bifacial solar structures.

In conventional solar cells, electrical current flows from the grid lines (smaller strips) that are printed on the silicon wafers, to busbars (larger strips) that make up a solar cell. In a standard solar panel, an array of 60 cells is connected in series and has a power output of about 250 Wp (watt peak capacity). The researchers are currently working on reducing the width of the grid lines and busbars. “This opens up more surface area for capturing solar power. Another thing we are looking at is segmenting the grid lines to open up more surface. This can remove two to five gridlines on average, which can lead to savings greater than $200,000 per year for a 500 MW factory,” Dr. Ebong said.

Take a virtual tour of the Photovoltaic Research Lab.