Lamp to Produce Uniform Microstructure

Photo: A computer's keyboard

At the center of the optimism is a 750-kilowatt radiant plasma arc lamp that boasts 3,000 times higher heating rates and three times higher processing temperatures than those possible with conventional technologies. This lamp can heat a surface at a rate of 1 million degrees Fahrenheit per second.

"More importantly, the lamp achieves those laser power densities over large areas, and that enables us to produce uniform microstructures with uniform properties," said Craig Blue of Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s (ORNL) Metals and Ceramics Division.

Those capabilities coupled with ORNL proprietary "pulse thermal processing" technology already have led to significant advances in fusing wear-resistant coatings to aluminum and in several other manufacturing applications. Now, Blue and colleagues plan to add another component to the mix: flexible electronics, which encompass such devices as flexible solar cells and thin-film transistors for flexible flat-panel displays.

The pulse thermal processing method has potential applications in thin-film transistors and magnet media, but especially in photovoltaics aimed at developing more efficient solar cells, which convert radiant energy from the sun into usable energy.

"In the U.S., photovoltaics is a $500 million industry, and the industry is growing at a rate of 30 to 40 percent per year," said Ron Ott, Blue's colleague in the project. "By 2020, the photovoltaic industry is projected to boast revenues of $15 billion worldwide."

ORNL's low-cost enabling technology allows manufacturers to process materials on inexpensive low-temperature substrates such as plastics. The plasma arc lamp can process areas up to 1,000 square centimeters and is capable of 1 millisecond pulses of 12 megawatts.

COMPAMED.de; Source: DOE/Oak Ridge National Laboratory