Computer Chips With Built In Solar Cells

Researchers from the University of Twente’s MESA+ Institute for Nanotechnology, along with colleagues from the universities of Nankai in China and Utrecht, have announced their success in producing a microchip incorporating a solar cell. 
 
Placing a solar cell directly on top of electronics means the chip will not require batteries; which lends to the possibility of small devices, such as sensors, being made complete with the necessary programming and wireless communication. These chips could operate under low light conditions, including indoors.
 
While the simplest solution in developing such a device would appear to be creating a solar cell separately and then fitting it on top of a chip, the researchers said this was not the most efficient production process. Instead, the researchers applied the solar cell layer by layer directly to the chip, using fewer materials and providing better performance.
 
The process is not without its risk – applying the solar cell has the potential to damage the delicate electronics, so the researchers decided to use solar cells made of amorphous silicon or CIGS (copper – indium – gallium – selenide), which is safer and highly suitable for industrial production using standard processes.
  
The research was carried out in the Semiconductor Components group led by Prof. Jurriaan Schmitz and was made possible with the support of the STW Technology Foundation. 
 
The research team’s paper ‘Above-CMOS a-Si and CIGS Solar Cells for Powering Autonomous Microsystems’ was presented at the International Electron Device Meeting in San Francisco last week.
 
Source/Image Credit: University of Twente