21.2.2023 Web UPM: Can solar cells be more profitable and efficient? The project of UPM researcher Sergio Fernández Garrido, awarded with a Consolidator Grant in the 2022 call, will open a novel avenue in nanomaterials that will potentially improve the efficiency of silicon-based solar cells.

Dr. Sergio Fernández Garrido from ISOM is researcher Ramón & Cajal and member of the Materials Science Department of the UPM.

The MIRACLE project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) to explore how to combine the efficiency and stability of III-V semiconductor-based tandem solar cells with the cost-effectiveness of silicon technology. In the words of its principal investigator, Sergio Fernández Garrido, “if this project is successful, it will not only have a strong impact on the photovoltaic industry, but will also open the doors to the integration of other optoelectronic devices on silicon, such as lasers and photodetectors, basic elements in various applications, and fundamental for the development of integrated photonic circuits”.

The ERC Consolidator Grant will allow this researcher from the Institute of Optoelectronic Systems and Microtechnology (ISOM) and the Department of Materials Science of the ETSI de Caminos, Canales y Puertos of the UPM to create, for 5 years, a research team composed of two postdocs and three doctoral students, in addition to several ISOM researchers. It will also make it possible to acquire the necessary equipment to make this project a reality, “a molecular beam epitaxy system, difficult to finance through state research programs due to its high cost (> 1 million euros), which will make it possible to control and vary the composition of matter on an atomic scale”.

Different levels of impact of the MIRACLE project

The potential impact of MIRACLE could be enormous, not only at the scientific level in the development and study of new nanostructured III-V materials, but also at the societal and commercial level. For example, the new double-junction and triple-junction tandem cells that are intended to be fabricated on silicon as a proof-of-concept have maximum theoretical efficiencies of up to 47%, which will reduce the surface area of photovoltaic panels and thus their environmental impact. In addition, the increase in energy production per unit area will benefit sectors or applications that have space restrictions, such as the automotive industry, unmanned aircraft, portable generators and photovoltaic systems on the roofs of buildings.