Currently, in developed, but also increasingly in developing countries, the needs for mobility are mostly covered through individual or company ownership of vehicles. With transport accounting for a large share of both direct and indirect emissions driving climate change, as well as taking up valuable space in our environment and causing noise, smell and light pollution, there is a growing demand for a more sustainable mobility-on-demand to mitigate these effects in current and future societies.
In this perspective, electric vehicles could provide part of the solution, if they replace fossil fuels with electricity from renewable energy, provided their idle time can be minimized compared to the current situation where cars are parked for the largest part of their operational life. This may be achieved by sharing the cars between users which can be significantly enhanced with vehicles that can drive around autonomously. Apart from fuel cells, also electrical energy from batteries will play an important role in providing energy to the electrical engines of these cars.
In this perspective, delivering renewable, off-grid and mobile electricity, PV is an interesting technology to consider in such an application. Calculations and early experiments in literature indicate PV could provide energy for driving an additional 20-60 km/day, depending on the region and circumstances, and could thus provide a significant extension of the range and autonomy of the vehicle.
Within the PV field, increasing performance and production volumes have been the main drivers of continued cost reduction, and have proven indispensable for their broad deployment. Imec has contributed in this field through improvements in cell performance and advanced module interconnection and encapsulation technologies. In this topic we want to explore the possibilities and further extend and adapt our module technologies to also address the challenges for vehicle integration. While performance will remain extremely important to maximize energy generation on the available (limited) area on vehicles, light-weight and aesthetics are challenges that will be more pronounced for this application, and reliability will require a shift in focus (e.g. vibration testing). An additional challenge will be to translate the technology for curved surfaces. On the other hand, cost will be much less than for standard PV modules.
In this PhD topic, the target is to explore and evaluate different options, starting from what concepts and material stacks would be suitable and/or required to fulfill the needs in terms of support and encapsulation (ranging from existing metal car roof structures to polymeric replacements with or without mechanical (honeycomb) or composite (carbon/glass fiber) reinforcements. Then the compatibility with different solar cells and associated interconnection technologies needs to be checked both process- and material-wise, resulting in proof-of-concept (small-scale) modules where feasible. Such modules can then be evaluated for their performance and reliability, potentially requiring the development of new or adapted characterization equipment. The resulting measurements will then provide feedback for the further development of the fabrication technology. Finally, the actual integration of the PV module(s) in a vehicle would allow further research to assess challenges and opportunities for actually rolling out such technology in the field.
Supporting this topic, we have established equipment in our brand new lab facilities that goes beyond state-of-the-art in module production. No less indispensable is the access to in-house knowledge and availability of characterization equipment and expertise to adequately assess samples, ranging from material characterization and analysis to full module performance measurements and reliability testing. In addition we are also actively building up an ecosystem of partners (research institutes and companies) to further develop our awareness and knowledge in the relevant applications for integrating PV modules. This includes a running multi-partner EU-project where one of the topics aims exactly at addressing the challenges for vehicle integration.
This PhD topic is located on Energyville Campus in Genk.
Required background: Engineering Science
Type of work: 70% experimental, 30% literature
Supervisor: Jef Poortmans
Daily advisor: Jonathan Govaerts
The reference code for this position is 2020-064. Mention this reference code in your application.
Chinese nationals who wish to apply for the CSC scholarship, should use the following code when applying for this topic: CSC2020-26.