The Center for Autonomous Solar Power (CASP) conducts research in thin film solar cells for low-cost solar energy. CASP, part of Binghamton University's New York State Center of Excellence, also conducts research in electrochemical energy storage through ultracapacitors (supercapacitors).
The goal is to fabricate low-cost, flexible solar cells using the roll-to-roll processes developed by Binghamton's Center for Advanced Microelectronics Manufacturing (CAMM).
The technology initiatives at CASP will expand the solar electric supply, seed new industries and infuse new manufacturing jobs in New York state, spurring economic activity that will benefit consumers and the environment. With CASP, New York state is positioned to be a leader in solar energy generation and a hub for energy technology development.
The center's researchers include experienced scientists and engineers from many disciplines, including physics, chemistry, materials science and engineering and electrical engineering. The center collaborates with industry in depositing and testing thin films and other material related to solar energy and energy storage. CASP also plays a key part in Binghamton's Transdisciplinary Area of Excellence in Smart Energy.
Our major research thrusts include:
Thin film solar cells
A major goal of CASP is to conduct research that will lead to very low cost solar cells on flexible substrates. The center is investigating the following areas:
- Emphasis on earth-abundant and non-toxic materials, such as Zn3P2, FeS2, and Cu2ZnSnS4 (CZTS)
- Fabrication using roll-to-roll manufacturing
- Transparent conductors alternative to ITO.
- Perovskite-based solar cells
Research in CASP focuses on the development of next-generation supercapacitors in a solid-state design for efficient, long-lasting and high-density electrical energy storage. Distinctly different from conventional, bulky supercapacitors, CASP's supercapacitors use non-toxic materials with a large area roll-to-roll production potential at a much lower cost.
The supercapacitors act as energy buffers to enhance renewable electrical energy conversion systems and transportation, making them maintenance free, energy efficient and reliable in delivering continuous power. CASP focuses on developing electro-active material systems based on graphene and its nanocomposites with low-cost transition metal oxides that have multifunctional charge storage ability. For the electrolyte system in the solid-state form, CASP is developing gels using room-temperature ionic liquids (RTILs).
Solar cells use only a fraction of the energy in sunlight. New devices under investigation at CASP are nanostructured materials designed to produce electricity from the infrared region of the spectrum. The research emphasis is on developing materials with a high electrical conductivity coupled with a low thermal conductivity to yield high temperature differences and high efficiency conversion of heat to electricity. CASP's current focus is on random layers of heavy elements in silicon to reduce thermal conductivity.
The reliability of new devices and materials must be studied before they can be integrated into commercial devices. Individual layers and cells are characterized through repeated bending and stretching, through exposure to a range of temperatures and humidity expected in operation and through permeation of moisture through encapsulates and plastic or glass covers.