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 Controlled cleanroom environment aids solar cell research at Swansea University

Cleanroom supports solar cell research

Humidity was key when specifying a Class 6 and Class 7 cleanroom at Swansea University

part of the SPECIFIC Innovation and Knowledge Centre. Led by Swansea University, SPECIFIC is


an academic and industrial consortium with a vision to turn buildings into power stations. The solar photovoltaics research is developingmaterials andmanufacturing methods to produce solar cells on glass and steel constructionmaterials. These materials will replace conventional roofing, cladding and glazing products, so buildings can generate a significant proportion of their electricity demand fromthe fabric of the building alone. Following the construction of brand new

state-of-the-art laboratories on Swansea University’s Bay Campus, SPECIFIC required a cleanroomto provide a stable and consistent environment for the research, as well as a larger space to co- locate all solar cell activity. SPECIFIC’s tight specification required temperature control tomaintain 21°C very reliably, with a relative humidity of less than 30 per cent at all times. Connect 2 Cleanrooms designed,

manufactured and installed amodular hardwall panel systemon the Bay campus in Swansea to create a suite of four cleanrooms covering 114 sqm. The humidity controlled roomis 6mx 4m, ISO Class 7, temperature controlled tomaintain 21°C and can deliver a constant humidity level of less than 30 per cent at all times. The ISO Class 6 area is at the other end

of the cleanroom. It is also 6mx 4mand is temperature controlled tomaintain 21°C. Themain cleanroomarea is 11mx 6m, ISO Class 7, temperature controlled to the same

onnect 2 Cleanrooms has completed the installation of an ISO Class 6 & 7 cleanroomat Swansea University to help support its solar cell research,

level as the other rooms and houses three gloveboxes for research requiring an oxygen-free atmosphere. The final roomis the change area, which is ISO Class 7 and allows operators to gown up in a controlled area,minimising the introduction of particles into the room. The cleanroomdesign incorporates a

mixture of swing doors and sliding doors to aid flow ofmaterials and personnel into and out of the cleanroom, entry is controlled by swipe cards to restrict access and the SPECIFIC logos on the outer panels personalise the roomand add to the aesthetics of the design. The transparent hardwall panels to two walls allow visitors an unobstructed view of the facilities and equipment without affecting research work or the cleanliness of the room. All these design elements ensure the cleanroomnot onlymeets the essential parts of the client’s specification, but also aid practical usability. Although cleanliness is crucial

throughout SPECIFIC’smanufacturing processes, it is humidity levels that have been proven tomost affect the quality and consistency of their devices. Trystan Watson of Swansea University explains:

“Cleanliness is very important, but we don’t know the exact degree to which it affects ourmaterials and solar cells. Inclusions and contamination are a big issue, however our cleanliness requirement is significantly lower than that for conventional photovoltaic research into silicon solar cells. In terms of device performance, we’ve seen a very significant influence in terms of humidity – so the consistent control of this was almostmore important than the level of cleanliness in our cleanroom specification.” The inclusion of the humidity and

temperature control ensures invaluable consistency all year round. The Connect 2 Cleanrooms’ control systemprovides SPECIFIC with the ability to regulate humidity and provides a consistent environment in which to investigate issues, duringmaterial synthesis ormanufacture, enabling themto develop amore stable baseline formaterials and processes. Prior to the installation of the cleanroom, the laboratory was achieving 30-70 per cent relative humidity; however, where the relative humidity was too high the devices wouldn’t work. EE

February 2017 /// Environmental Engineering /// 39

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