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make your own solar cells?

Discussion in 'Electronic Design' started by Zander, Dec 6, 2004.

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  1. Zander

    Zander Guest

    Hi All,

    I've heard a rumour that if one has access to a computer controlled kiln
    (which I do) that you can create your own photovoltaic cells?

    I have not been able to find information about this. I have found some low
    temperature very low voltage 'experiments' you can perform with a hot plate
    and a sheet of copper etc. but not much else.\

    I have two kilns a small test/glass kiln and a large computerized kiln
    capable of 2400° F.

    If you've ever heard of this?


  2. Silicon photovoltaic cells require similar processing steps as used in
    making other semiconductor devices (clean room, metallization chamber,
    doping chamber, photolithography, etc.)
  3. Bell Labs put out a nice kit that anyone can use for this, with the necessary
    ingredients, back in the mid-1960's. Including the method to make your own oven
    to reach the needed temps. It's still being sold by the new holder of the
    rights and I think I can track him down, if needed. I believe the kit cost
    today is about $30 or so, US.

    The upshot is... No, you don't need photolithography for a photovoltaic cell,
    nor a clean room, etc. Of course, it's a demonstration thing and not
    production. But photovoltaic cells are probably the one semiconductor process
    requiring the least technology to achieve.

    And more, it doesn't cost a lot of money to build your own chamber (quartz,
    water cooled jacket, nickel plated steel chamber, tungsten halogen lamps and
    simple reflectors, power controllers, etc. (I've done it to test some ideas.)
    What is the real problem is the gases you often want, like silane (pyrophoric
    SiH4 gas that finds tiny cracks in your piping and burns to widen them,
    eventually exploding), phosphine (pyrophoric PH3 gas, poisonous, bad news), and
    arsine (AsH3, hyper- deadly with a TLV of 50ppb, but stable gas.)

    But I believe that the Bell Labs kit was about as safe as anything can get and
    dead cheap.

  4. I suppose it depends on what your goals are ... a school science project or
    a product that approaches commercial standards. I consulted for a PV
    manufacturer for 3 years (circa 1996) and they used a clean room and 6
    silicon furnaces! Not to mention laser trimming machines and bunch of other
    exotic and expensive stuff.
  5. Yes, I guess that was my point, too. It depends on what you are trying to
    achieve -- a demonstration on one end and commercial production on the other. I
    had no idea where the poster was at, of course. But I had a hard time imagining
    it was commercial production.

    Heck, mere metal in contact can make a nice schottky diode (galena crystal
    imbedded into molten lead allowed to cool), I think. I suppose there might even
    be some photovoltaic properties for that, too.

  6. Any time there is an "energy hill" between two conductors/semiconductors in
    contact, there are several interesting possibilities. Thanks for your
  7. Zander

    Zander Guest

    If you have the url of whoever is selling this kit I'd be gratefull! Also,
    fwiw, I'm just trying to have fun and experiment but probably without
    caustic poisonous gases!


  8. I see what I can find out. I'd tracked them down a few years back and they'd
    bought all the rights a long time ago, themselves, which makes me worry that
    they are "getting on in years" by now. They were located on the east coast,
    like in New Jersey or something like that, so I'll see what I can find. My
    original search had me finding an old address and phone number over and over
    again and it took some real sleuthing to find their current location and number.
    Maybe it has gotten easier or maybe I can find my notes.

    I'll let you know.

  9. Zander

    Zander Guest

    Thanks Jon,
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