The University of New South Wales has launched what it describes as the world’s first online solar cell factory simulator – a web-based PV production line that allows engineers and students to conduct virtual experiments that would otherwise be too expensive to undertake.
Developed in Australia by UNSW and PV Lighthouse, PV Factory allows users to design and build virtual solar cells to maximise their efficiency, and to gain a deeper understanding of solar cell production.
The main aim of the interactive online program is to help university level engineering students to learn how solar cells are made and measured.
It does this by processing virtual wafers through twelve production steps and presenting the user with the electrical output of each solar cell.
In particular, the software simulates the fabrication of solar cells from crystalline-silicon wafers, manufactured through the screen printing process, as is the method behind 85 per cent of the world’s solar cells.
PV Factory also helps explain how the efficiency of the solar cells depends on the conditions used in each process step, like the chemical concentrations, the temperatures, and the gas flows.
“One of the key goals of this project is to improve the education of solar engineers which should lead to better and lower cost solar technologies for the future,” said Richard Cornish, senior UNSW lecturer and COO of ACAP – the Australian Centre for Advanced Photovoltaics.
“By educating PV engineers, and by integrating the latest PV research into a single program, we hope that PV Factory will contribute to the ever-reducing cost of photovoltaic electricity.”
But it’s not exclusive to engineering students and professionals, says Cornish. “Anyone with an interest in solar technology can log on and experiment with the software.”