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First prize: Erenn Ore - 'Thin film solar cell'

Thin film photovoltaic devices have great potential to drastically reduce the cost of solar cells, as they use relatively little semiconductor material as compared to the silicon wafer-based solar cells which dominate the current solar cell market.


A thin film device is typically processed by depositing multiple layers of thin films, each having nanometer scale thickness. One of the key requirements for a reproducible and reliable thin film device is the adhesion between its layers.


My research is on the development of thin film solar cells. I am using various combinations of different materials as components of these solar cells. I need to make sure that each of the materials are compatible with one another and that they stay on top of each other after being deposited. On some occasions due to the incompatibility of the materials or material deposition conditions (temperature, pressure, etc), they do not stick to one another and start to delaminate. This photo shows such a case. The photo helps me to see the level and the location of delamination, which in turn helps me to find a solution to the cause of the problem in some cases.


This is a standard photo taken using an optical microscope with no enhancements. The photo shows a multi-layer thin film solar cell with high residual stress resulting in an array of bubbles and crinkles on the film.


Eren is a second year PhD student in The Electronics, Power and Energy Conversion Group in The Electrical Engineering Division, Department of Engineering, University of Cambridge.

Supervisor: Professor Gehan Amaratunga

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Taken on June 12, 2011