The ASU Solar Power Lab

By Stuart Bowden, Ph.D.

ASU has a long history of developing solar power technology dating back to the energy crisis of the 1970s when Dr. Chuck Backus, then Dean of Engineering, lead the solar energy initiative. An outcome of this early initiative was the establishment of the ASU Solar Power Lab comprising state-of-the-art laboratory facilities and some of the most highly experienced researchers in the field. In 2011 the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy recognized the impact of the Solar Power Lab by awarding a $20M contract to establish the Quantum Energy and Sustainable Solar technology (QESST) Engineering Research Center at ASU. The ERC program is the flagship of the NSF Engineering Directorate and the Solar Lab plays a key role in managing the QESST R&D and educational initiatives.

Under the direction of Dr. Stuart Bowden the SPL is making its advanced toolset and expertise available to external users through the NCI-SW. Some of the capabilities available to external users of the Solar Power Lab are:

  • An industry standard pilot line for 6 inch solar cells with an average efficiency of 17.5%
  • Extensive capabilities for silicon solar cell characterization
  • Molecular beam epitaxy with gallium, indium, aluminum, phosphorus, antimony, arsenic and nitrogen sources, thereby allowing the growth of a large number of III-V material combinations

The SPL manages the Growth Material and Characterization Lab that has the goal of achieving solar cells with efficiencies approaching the thermodynamic limit of 86% using nanostructured devices. Other research programs supported by SPL include: making flexible solar cells that can be installed on buildings without the restrictions imposed by the rigid, planar solar cells currently in production; designing multi-junction solar cells that capture more of the energy available in sunlight; and fabricating nanostructured solar cells for increased efficiency.

A short video of Dr. Bowden explaining some of the QESST solar power R&D capabilities available through the Solar Power Lab can be seen at