“This technique enables materials manufacturers to detect potential problems early without slowing or stopping the manufacturing process,” said Bhushan Sopori, an NREL materials performance scientist and inventor of the On-line Monitoring in Solar Cell and Fuel Cell Manufacturing technology.
Mike Ulsh, manufacturing R&D project lead for NREL, sees the commercial benefits of implementing this invention in a number of industries, including manufacturing of fuel cell components, semiconductor wafers, glass and coatings.
“Introduction of this technique has the potential to help decrease the cost of producing materials in a variety of industries,” said Ulsh. “It would likely have the largest impact on reducing cost in high-throughput environments, such as roll-to-roll processing facilities, because it can characterize materials at a speed of tens of feet per minute.”
Characterization of materials using this method is accomplished via wide-angular illumination on the conveyor belt or roll-to-roll processing platform. Spectral imaging and reciprocal optics are then utilized to assess a number of material features including thickness, surface conditions and uniformity. The novel method was demonstrated on a roll-to-roll processing pilot plant at NREL’s Energy Systems Integration Facility (ESIF).