Cutting the Costs of Solar Power with Low-Cost, High-Efficiency Solar Cells

High-efficiency compound semiconductor solar cells can now be printed on flexible, plastics.

Image courtesy of John Rogers and Ralph Nuzzo, University of Illinois
Flexible solar module that uses high performance, ultrathin compound semiconductor photovoltaic cells grown on a wafer and then printed onto a sheet of plastic.

The Science

Developed new methods for growing compound semiconductor solar cells in ways that allow them to be printed on a variety of surfaces, including flexible sheets of plastic.

The Impact

Solar photovoltaic cells made with compound semiconductors are nearly twice as efficient as the best silicon-based devices in converting sunlight to electricity.  The new growth and manufacturing methods reduce the cost of deploying these high efficiency cells for utility-scale power generation.  Current commercial implementations that exploit these ideas hold the world record for module-level efficiency.


BES-supported research at the University of Illinois has resulted in an extensive intellectual property portfolio related to printable, high performance flexible and stretchable electronics and photovoltaics.  This fundamental research answers basic questions related to growth and manufacturing use of single crystalline semiconductors, dielectrics, metals, and devices formed from them.  This process also includes the use of a micro-transfer printing process that enables integration of pre-formed circuit elements to almost any substrate, including flexible types of plastic that can be integrated with optical over-layers for directing and focusing the light.  This research has directly led to a development program on concentrator photovoltaic modules, in partnership with Semprius Corporation, under the DOE Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s SunShot Initiative Programwith the goal of establishing new materials strategies and manufacturing methods for low cost, high performance photovoltaic modules.  Semprius Corp and MC10, another startup company focused on stretchable electronics for biomedical applications, have licenses for applications in photovoltaics, flexible electronics and large area displays.  In 2012, Semprius set a new world record for photovoltaic module efficiency, reaching 33.9 percent.


John Rogers


Basic Research: DOE Office of Science, Office of Basic Energy Sciences

Follow-up Applied R&D: Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Solar America Initiative


J. Yoon et al. “GaAs photovoltaics and optoelectronics using releasable multilayer epitaxial assemblies.”  2010. Nature 465: 329.  DOI: 10.1038/nature09054

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Program: BES , MSE

Performer: University , Industry

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