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Solar Manufacturing R & D

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Solar energy is undeniably a massive resource for humanities future energy needs, with more than enough energy to meet all of the global energy needs. This resource has been supplying this energy reliably to the earth for billions of years and will continue to do so for billions of years to come. In the past several years, the costs to turn this energy into electricity has plummeted, by most accounts manufacturers sales price has decreased by 80%. However, there are still gains to be made not only in the cost of production, but also in the implementation of solar energy production. The next generation of photovoltaics will be enabled by thin films deposited by traditional manufacturing practices that will not only reduce the costs of manufacturing and installation, but will also include form factors favorable to architecture as building integrated photovoltaics (BIPV). Thin films are also very important to other devices such as batteries, windows, solar fuels and etc. The further reduction in the cost of solar implementation, improvement in aesthetics and the integration of batteries will definitely change the way power (electrical, thermal and chemical) is delivered in the future. 

The Conn Center for Renewable Energy Research (CCRER) is striving to be at the forefront of the next generation of thin film devices. The solar manufacturing R&D lab is dedicated to discovering and manufacturing tomorrow's thin films using the todays printing capabilities. 

The development of low-cost solar photovoltaics is inherently dependent on scalable manufacturing practices of the materials and processes involved. The Conn Center has established a unique, flexible manufacturing R&D line for developing cost-effective solar cell technologies for large-scale energy production. Interests include developing various thin film materials and technologies and demonstrating their ability to be economically manufactured using the roll-to-roll facility. The University of Louisville has been actively involved in the development of new materials for third generation solar cells and is uniquely positioned to scale these technologies. The facility is developing sustainable manufacturing processes utilizing low energy techniques with the goal of producing the lowest life cycle cost for photovoltaic devices.


Near Term Objectives

  • Demonstrate roll-to-roll scalable technology capable of producing solar cells that can be installed at below $1 per Watt.

  • Implement high throughput film processing technology for roll-to-roll production of solar cells using earth abundant materials.

  • Identify value added metallization schemes to reduce costs and improve efficiency of crystalline silicon solar cells, the market leader.


Mid Term Objectives

  • Demonstrate the production of flexible solar panels using a deposition technique on the roll-to-roll manufacturing line capable of producing below grid parity electricity. This includes flexible, lightweight and building integrated architectures that would significantly affect the balance of systems cost.

  • Establish durability of roll-to-roll scalable technology of an earth abundant material to meet economic forecasts.

  • Demonstrate the feasibility of a metallization scheme to increase solar cell efficiency and provide cost reduction.


Long Term Objectives

  • Put into practice a viable roll-to-roll manufacturing of solar cells meeting SunShot targets for cost and durability.

  • Integrate earth abundant materials and low energy processing into a roll-to-roll manufactured solar cell for novel applications reducing balance of systems costs.

  • Incorporate new metallization schemes into existing manufacturing platforms.



Thad Druffel, PhD, PE
Theme Leader, Solar Manufacturing R&D
Conn Center for Renewable Energy Research
University of Louisville
Ernst Hall 302, 216 Eastern Parkway

Louisville, KY 40292

Email Dr. Druffel

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