High Temperature Furnaces for Clean Energy Applications
Heat treatment processes such as annealing and curing are rarely associated with clean energy and sustainability, due to their high energy demands and potentially large emission outputs. Clean energy components and instruments are commonly fabricated from conventional materials, such as aluminum, which are formulated through traditional, energy-intensive methods. The schism between the carbon footprint of production methodologies is often at odds with the values of the application sector.
Sustainability is key for clean energy high temperature furnaces, which require highly-stable ceramic fiber insulation to reduce energy loss and optimize the temperature profiles of heating chambers. Generating temperatures of up to 1800°C (3272°F) requires optimal heating elements connected to stable power supplies of several thousand watts. This apparent conflict between energy requirement and ethical priority has supported a concerted industry push to improve the efficiency of high temperature furnaces for clean energy components and improve the sustainability of clean energy manufacturing.
This article will explore the use of high temperature furnaces for clean energy applications in more detail, with a focus on improved chemical vapor deposition furnaces for organic photovoltaic manufacturing:
High Temperature Furnaces for Solar Cells
Organic photovoltaics, or solar cells, are manufactured using a range of production methods including chemical vapor deposition (CVD). Surface engineering of thin film structures such as OPV cells requires unique semiconducting coating formulations, which are dispersed upon a substrate material and cured through specific temperature gradients. CVD involves dispersing a coating formulation on a polymer, glass, or alloy substrate as a vapor and heating it with a plasma ion source – which is particularly energy intensive – or heated wire elements.
High temperature furnaces are used to anneal a substrate and unlock the distinct electromechanical properties of the semiconducting thin film structure. In the case of OPVs, this supports a structural formulation that will enable the transportation of electron—hole pairs through the semi-transparent medium of the substrate to an anode or cathode, to be further transferred as an electronic value. The increasing range of suitable substrate and coating material combinations has vastly improved the capacities of OPV technology, enabling the acquisition of broader spectral ranges from ultraviolet (UV) to near-infrared (NIR) light at lower temperatures – thus decreased energy demands.
Innovations in CVD technology and annealing processes have consistently resulted in increased efficacy of emerging solar cells. High purity heating chambers with outstanding ceramic insulation create a pristine housing to negate cross-contamination of chemical vapors during the deposition process, while efficient ceramic fiber and wire heating elements can cure coated substrates with reduced energy requirements compared to plasma ion heat sources. Custom high temperature furnaces and established laboratory box and tube furnaces are routinely used to fabricate OPV structures with ever-improving levels of efficiency and environmental consideration.
High Temperature Furnaces from Thermcraft
Thermcraft is a leading developer of thermal processing equipment for a range of industrial sectors. Our ready-made furnaces are available for robust heat treatment applications, with various heaters and insulating components available for custom made high temperature furnaces for distinct application requirements.
Our custom furnaces can be made using diffusion heating elements for high temperature uniformity at values of up to 1800°C, with outstanding energy savings courtesy of custom machined ceramic fiber insulation.