The Need for Photovoltaic Unit Operations Experimentation

  • T. W. F. Russell
  • B. N. Baron
  • R. E. Rocheleau
Conference paper


In order to develop a rational design for commercial scale manufacture of thin-film photovoltaic cells, a process engineering research effort must be coordinated with the bench scale experiments which focus on basic physics, materials science, and device engineering. From the viewpoint of manufacturing, the photovoltaic cell needs to be considered as both a chemical product and an electronic device. A process for manufacturing solar cells, which is both economical and reliable, must be capable of producing millions of square meters per year. The scale of such an operation is similar in technical, capital, and labor requirements to facilities for production of commodity chemicals such as methanol and ethylene.

Unit operations experimentation has long been a part of process research and development in the chemical process industries. In this paper, we show that unit operations research is necessary for the developing photovoltaics industry. To illustrate, we discuss the development of a commercial scale process design for deposition of the active semiconductor layers of the cadmium sulfide-copper sulfide solar cell. Coupled heat and mass balance equations were developed to model the evaporation of cadmium sulfide. After verification at the bench scale, the model was used to design a continuous reel-to-reel vacuum coater for deposition of cadmium sulfide. This vacuum deposition unit, which in its present configuration has a throughput of 120 cm2 per minute, has been purchased and installed at the University of Delaware. The results of some initial experiments will be discussed.


Unit Operation Commercial Scale Cadmium Sulfide Deposition Unit Front Contact 
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  1. 1.
    T. W. F. Russell, A. M. Barnett, B. N. Baron, J. V. Masi, and R. E. Rocheleau, Proceedings of the Fourteenth IEEE Photovoltaic Specialists Conference, San Diego, CA. January 7–10, 1980, p. 354.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    T. W. F. Russell, B. N. Baron, and R. E. Rocheleau A.I. Ch.E. Meeting, Portland, OR. August, 1980.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    R. B. Hall and J. D. Meakin, Thin Solid Films 63, 203 (1979).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    R. E. Rocheleau, B. N. Baron and T. W. F. Russell, A.I. Ch.E. Journal, submitted for publication.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    R. E. Rocheleau, “Design Procedures for Commercial Scale Thermal Evaporation System to Deposit CdS for Solar Cell Manufacture”, PhD Thesis, University of Delaware, 1980.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© ECSC, EEC, EAEC, Brussels and Luxembourg 1981

Authors and Affiliations

  • T. W. F. Russell
    • 1
  • B. N. Baron
    • 1
  • R. E. Rocheleau
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Energy Conversion/Department of Chemical EngineeringUniversity of DelawareNewarkUSA

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