Energy and Environment

Cheetah – Cost-reduction through material optimization and higher energy output of solar photovoltaic modules

Cheetah is an ambitious EU project devoted to develop technology and foster innovative manufacturing capabilities and photovoltaic products. The goal is not only to reduce the price per watt for photovoltaic energy, but also to support Europe’s development of technological and industrial capacity in all parts of the PV value chain.

Foss, Sean Erik

Head of Department


- joining Europe’s Research and Development efforts in support of its PV industry

In the Cheetah project, research institutions from 16 different nationalities, will work together, exchanging knowledge and experience. The scientific scope of the project is to develop new concepts and technologies for wafer-based crystalline silicon PV, thin-film PV, and organic PV.

For the wafer based crystalline silicon solar cells there is a continuous drive to make the silicon slices (wafers) as thin as possible in order to save cost on expensive silicon material. However, not only is it challenging to make such ultrathin Si wafers, the subsequent processing to transform the wafers into finished solar cells is equally challenging. Researchers from IFE are involved in a broad range of the Cheetah activities, but are particularly engaged in the task of ultrathin wafer development and processing.

Another approach to reduce the cost of expensive silicon material is to move from Si slice (wafer) to thin film. In a thin film solar cell, the active photovoltaic material is deposited as a thin film on top of a carrier substrate. The thickness of the active absorber layer can then be even thinner than for the wafer based solar cells. Different semiconductors can be used as the active layer. However, such thin absorbers layers can be transparent to a significant amount of the sunlight. This is very unfortunate, since the efficiency of the solar cell is proportional to the amount of light it absorbs. Therefore, clever optical structures must be fabricated on these cells in order to trap the light within the active solar cell layer and increase absorption.

The third type of solar cell addressed in this project is the organic photovoltaic cell. Such solar cells are currently not close to the efficiencies of the silicon solar cells, but could potentially be produces at much lower costs.

In addition to the pure scientific objectives of Cheetah, the project partners also seek to foster long-term European cooperation in the PV R&D sector. We will do this by sharing knowledge, organizing workshops, exchange and training researchers inside and outside Europe, efficient use of infrastructures, promoting best practices and standards.

The project partners are also working to accelerate the implementation of innovative technologies in the PV industry.