PV to Fuels Technology

The PV to Fuels Technology Group focuses on developing new device concepts for integrating photovoltaic devices with electrolysers for the purpose of generating fuels such as hydrogen from solar energy.  Specific emphasis is placed on integrating existing photovoltaic and electrolyser technologies to develop devices that are attractive for sustainable energy generation, conversion and storage systems of the future.  Our research is thus guided by the techno-economic demands on commercially relevant PV to fuel conversion systems that is, achieving high energy efficiency at the lowest possible cost.

PV-EC scheme_new2

Fig. 1: Schematic of a photovoltaic (PV) device that is directly coupled to (integrated with) an electrolyser (EC). (Credit: S. Calnan)

Main activities:

  • Design, construction and performance characterization of PV integrated electrolysers
  • Explore suitability of PV and electrolysis cells using earth abundant materials for fuel generation from solar energy
  • Identification of the most energy efficient, reliable and cost effective way of coupling the PV device to the electrolyser
  • Developing multi-functional thin layers on up to 30 x 30 cm² areas for protection against corrosion, ion diffusion and damage of existing device layers during subsequent processing by Atomic Layer Deposition e.g. ZnO, ZnOS, ZnO:Al, Al2O3, TiO2, SnO2, ZnSnO3
  • Conduct techno-socio-economic studies and life cycle analysis of possible PV integrated electrolyser configurations
  • Collaboration with industry, universities and research organisations

Specific challenges addressed:

  1. Match PV and electrolyser performance under a variety of operating conditions
  2. Reduce over-potential losses caused by coupling between photovoltaic and electrolysis components
  3. Increase integrated device longevity by ensuring corrosion stability

Collaborations and Projects:

  • PVcomB internal cooperation with the Silicon PV group and the CIGS PV groups that provide the PV devices for our activities
  • HZB internal cooperation with the Solar Fuels institute
  • Coordination of the PECSYS Project (Grant Agreement Nr: 735218)
  • Participation in “Energy System 2050” a joint initiative of the research field energy of the Helmholtz Association
  • Contribution to the Helmholtz Innovation Lab HySPRINT (Hybrid Silicon Perovskite Research, Integration & Novel Technologies)
TRL table PV to fuels

Fig. 2: The PV to Fuels Group bridges the gap between research and commercialization of PV integrated electrolysers. (Credit: S. Calnan)


Electrochemical analysis

  • PARSTAT 4000+ potentiostat/galvanostat/Electrochemical Impedence Spectroscopy (EIS) analyser (Priceton Applied Research and Solartron Analytic)
  • Corrosion test set-up

Device Layer Preparation

  • Beneq TSF 500 Atomic Layer Deposition (ALD) system allowing batch coating of up to seven 30 x 30 cm² substrates
  • Electrolysis cell for electrodeposition on up to 50 cm² substrate
  • Semi-automatic screen printer for up to 30 x 30 cm² substrates
  • Access to other large area deposition facilities in PVcomB, e.g. magnetron sputtering, plasma enhanced chemical vapor deposition, evaporation, etc.