Copper-based Photovoltaic Nanocrystals for Thin-film Solar Cells

Tech ID: W-12-016/054


Improving efficiency while reducing cost is of paramount importance when it comes to solar cell research. Thin-film solar cells, at the cutting edge of solar cell technology, represent an exciting realm of photovoltaics which promises to do just this. Typically, thin-film solar cells are comprised of a combination of copper, indium, gallium, and selenide (CIGS). Although these materials have proven to be vital components of high-efficiency thin-film cells, they have significant disadvantages, such as high monetary and environmental costs. Because of this, there is a need for the development of new formulations which reduce these costs, paving the way for cheaper and greener thin-film products. Globally, the solar power market is expected to grow rapidly and generate revenue of $179.13 billion in 2020, with thin-film technologies comprising about 10% of the total installed capacity.

Description of the invention

Researchers from Western have developed one-pot methods of manufacturing thin-film nanocrystals comprising of several novel copper-based formulations (e.g. Cu2ZnSnS4, Cu2SnS3). The nanocrystals, once electrodeposited onto a conductive substrate, offer high absorption, and high photoconversion values at relatively low production cost due to the absence of expensive and dirty CIGS materials. Additionally, the annealing step in the production of these solar cells can be accomplished with a very low temperature, further reducing cost. The thin-film cells developed at Western have broad application possibilities: they are especially useful in small scale off-grid applications or integrated in the construction of buildings. If scaled up, thin-film cells can be arranged in a large solar farm configuration for large-scale energy production.


  • One-pot approach using a mild chemical reaction
  • Cheaper and greener than current fabrication methods
  • Low thermal annealing temperature


  • Small scale off-grid plants
  • Large solar farms
  • Building-integrated panels

IP Status

Patent: China, US and CA


  • Commercial partner
  • Licensing
  • Development partner

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