Loughborough University
Leicestershire, UK
LE11 3TU
+44 (0)1509 222222
Loughborough University

Centre for Renewable Energy Systems Technology (CREST)


Researcher testing PV module

Angela Marmont Renewable Energy Laboratories (AMREL)

CREST has over 1200m2 of laboratories dedicated to the research of renewable energy systems, including PV, Wind and Energy Storage. This includes the materials used within PV devices as well as the characterisation of both solar cells and modules.  We are currently expanding our research capabilities within Energy Storage.

Thin Film Processing Capabilities

CREST has four vacuum sputter deposition kits (using RF, DC and pulsed DC sputtering) for the deposition of a variety of materials: including silicon nitride, ITO and AZO, Al, Mo, CdS and CdTe. We investigate low cost deposition techniques including spin coating, chemical bath and electrodeposition.

Silicon Wafer Processing Capabilities

CREST has a number of processing tools used in the fabrication of silicon solar cells including:

Spin-Rinser-Dryer, Plasma cleaning system, horizontal tube P-doping furnace, semi-automatic screen printer, 3-zone Belt Furnace, Chemical Wet-benches, 2 Lasers systems for scribing silicon cells.                                                                  

Characterisation Capabilities

CREST has comprehensive facilities for the characterisation of both PV cells and modules. CREST can provide a measuring service for solar cells using a Wacom dual source solar simulator with an illumination area of up to 9x9cm. The simulator is Class AAA, with the spectral match being adjustable. It also has water and peltier temperature controlled chucks.

Cell material that can be measured:

CREST can also undertake EQE measurements using a bespoke design and built EQE system, with dual lamp input, x-y filter system and beam homogeniser.

CREST also has the capability for doing Electroluminescence(EL) and Spectral EL measurements using bespoke built systems.                                                                      

CREST can also investigate various properties of the materials deposited using ellipsometry, UV/Vis/NIR spectrophotometry (with integrating sphere), optical microscopy, as well as surface profilometry and X-Ray Flourescence.                                                  

Electrical properties of materials can be investigated using 4 Point Probe, Hall Effect measurement system, and QSS Lifetime measurement system.               

Solar Modules

PV modules can be tested using a Pasan large area solar simulator (with modifications for low light measurements, temperature coefficients and angle-of-incidence dependence).   

CREST has a number of chambers for accelerated testing of modules including five environmental chambers (-60 to 150ºC), three of these chambers are capable of testing full size modules. In addition to these CREST also has an Atlas C3000i Weather–O-Meter, and a Q-Lab QUV Accelerated weathering/UV exposure chamber.

We can also investigate modules using bespoke Laser Beam Induced current measurement system (LBIC).

We also have a full size module laminator (1.7mx1m) to fabricate PV modules. To test different aspects of the lamination process we use a pull adhesion tester.

8.5kW PV array emulator for grid-tied and stand-alone inverter characterisation

Multiple meteorological continuous measurement systems incl. measurements of global, total in-plane and diffuse irradiance, spectrum, ambient temperature, relative humidity, wind speed and direction

CREST also offers a bespoke outdoor test facility for continuous monitoring of PV module operational performance.

Energy Storage

CREST has recently acquired a number of characterisation tools to investigate the physical and chemical properties of the selected materials (solid and/or liquid) as they undergo changes in temperature or flow. These include table-top Scanning Electron Microscope with EDS, a Differential Scanning Calorimeter, Thermo Gravimetric Analyser (with residual gas analyser), Thermo Mechanical Analyzer, Rheometer, Xenon Flash (DXF) thermal diffusivity meter.

We can also determine the thermal conductivity, thermal diffusivity and specific heat capacity of materials using a Hot Disc Thermal Conductivity measurement system.  

CREST is currently in the process of building, and equipping, a dedicated high temperature thermal storage assessment unit which will house 4 large scale test rigs.

CREST also has research interests in vacuum systems for thermal insulation systems and flat plate solar thermal collectors. It has the facility to fabricate vacuum glazing and vacuum enclosures using a variety of sealing materials and sealing techniques. These facilities include: a large area, high temperature hot plate (0.7mx0.7m); vacuum pumping station (backing and turbo) with wide range pressure gauges (atmosphere to vacuum); vacuum cap with integrated heater; medium temperature (up to 300°C) and high temperature (up to 1400°C) gravity convection ovens.

Furthermore, CREST has recently acquired a large volume (0.6mx0.6mx0.6m) industrial gravity convection oven (up to 400°C) which can be purged with a nitrogen atmosphere (provided via a 32 l/m nitrogen compressor) to minimise oxidation during vacuum system sealing processes.                               

Wind Energy  

CREST has its own grid-connected wind turbine (0.6W) as well as access to two local 25kW grid-connected wind turbines.   

For further information on any of our facilities or capabilities please contact our Laboratory Manager Kevin Bass (K.Bass@lboro.ac.uk).