Advanced materials

Our Advanced Materials experts use their combined knowledge of physics and chemistry to make smart combinations between materials. This can mean mixing two polymeric materials, combining organic and inorganic materials or using fibers to reinforce a material. These challenging processes have one thing in common: they all require a specific interaction to take place at the interface between materials. This interaction can be achieved by modifying one or more of the materials.

The Advanced Materials group specializes in finding smart ways to enable the desired interaction. Not through a process of trial-and-error, but through a careful analysis of materials and an expert interpretation of the results. This kind of work requires highly advanced analytical techniques combined with a thorough knowledge of physics and chemistry.

An example of one of our Advanced Materials projects:

Solar cells

Solar cells can convert sunlight into electricity. Solar panel arrays absorb a wide range of sunlight but only a small portion of the absorbed light is used to generate electricity, the rest is transferred into thermal energy causing the solar panels to heat up significantly, which decreases their performance.

One possible route to avoid loss of efficiency due to overheating is to first collect the sunlight using a luminescent solar concentrator (LSC) and then guide only the portion of the light which is used to generate electricity into smaller photovoltaic cells attached to the sides of the LSC. This approach prevents the solar cells to overheat and also decrease the cost of producing expensive large-area solar panels.

In order to assure a proper function of the LSC solar cell module, the thermal properties of the lightguide and the solar cell need to be well-matched. Differences in thermal expansion of the LSC and the solar cell can cause stress accumulation and damage of the device.

PTG/e has assisted in characterizing the thermal expansion of the LSC and the solar cells as a function of the temperature. This allowed determining the temperature at which the solar cells would crack due to mismatch in the thermal expansion coefficients.
Choosing the right type of glue between the solar cell and the LSC can help in preventing mismatch in their thermal expansion and is crucial for proper functioning of the device.

From this work a scientific paper was published.