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Published on 12 March 2024


Under the sun

​Power output from solar photovoltaic is increasing in line with demand for low-carbon electricity. The current total global annual production of 250 gigawatts is expected to rise to between 800 gigawatts and 1 terawatt by 2030. We are committed to supporting the expansion of solar in this fast-paced environment by conducting R&D spanning the entire value chain from materials to systems. With broad, deep know-how and excellent results scaling up new technologies, we are known in Europe as a leading center for solar energy research at the international state of the art.​​

Solar photovoltaic, increasingly prevalent as a source of low-carbon electricity, is expected to become the world's leading source of electricity by 2050. Despite the challenges that remain to be overcome, the European Union is committed to rolling out solar PV on a massive scale. Looking ahead, a stronger, more sovereign domestic PV industry will need to be built and we will need to seek ways to make more efficient use of the space available for solar panels.

At CEA-Liten, our mission of transferring technologies to the market and supporting French and EU industry-building initiatives aligns with these policies. We possess more than 20 years of experience with solar PV, positioning us to assist our partners at every stage, from proof of concept to module certification. We work with companies like Carbon, a France-based startup, and Italian company Enel Green Power’s 3Sun, the name behind Europe’s first PV gigafactory, expected to produce 3 gigawatts a year in 2024.

​More de​tails​

High efficiency​​

The primary objective of our research is to improve PV cell and module yields and scale up new solutions for manufacturing on an industrial scale. Currently we are obtaining some of the highest performance levels anywhere in the world on industrial-scale equipment. We are now aiming for yields greater than 26% on silicon as we continue to reduce the amount of critical metals like silver and indium needed. Our front runners in terms of performance are silicon heterojunction cells with passivating contacts, TOPCon cells, and, finally, perovskite-silicon tandem cells, heralded as the technology capable of pushing yields past 30% and paving the way for future generations of cells. Our research on perovskite-silicon tandem cells centers on improving both performance and manufacturing processes. The goal is to ensure that this emerging technology is compatible with the throughput requirements of industrial-scale manufacturing on existing production lines

Photovoltaic systems

The optimization of photovoltaic systems is another one of our research areas. This includes innovative physical and electrical architectures for the integration of higher-voltage DC photovoltaic systems. We are setting our sights on 3,000 V and beyond. These more powerful systems would help increase energy efficiency and reduce the overall amount of conductive materials such as copper. We also develop components and conduct research on innovative power converters made using wide bandgap materials like gallium nitride (GaN) and silicon carbide (SiC). Last but not least, we are developing modeling and simulation tools that can assess the status of a solar power plant and recommend optimizations. These kinds of solutions will improve our ability to forecast production, troubleshoot malfunctions, and boost performance.

Reducing environmental impacts

The recovery, reuse, and recycling of PV materials are key challenges. With eco-innovation principles as our guide, we are working to make PV module manufacturing processes more efficient. Solar photovoltaic is being rolled out massively worldwide, and the installed base of equipment is expanding rapidly, creating a pressing need for new module designs that are easy to dismantle and recycle. Our holistic approach to these issues spans research on how to best reduce and reuse waste, save energy, and replace critical materials with alternatives. We also bring in-depth knowledge of lifecycle analysis to our research to identify the most promising environmental performance boosters and integrate low-environmental-impact materials very early on in the product design process. One example is silver, a material we are trying to replace with the much more abundant copper. ​​

Other PV use cases

We are also investigating other innovative ways to integrate PV solar equipment on existing man-made surfaces like warehouses, agricultural buildings, other industrial and commercial buildings, and even transportation infrastructures. These new use cases will require flexible, lightweight, and bifacial modules depending on the installation scenario (rooftop, etc.). Heliup, a CEA-Liten startup, was created to commercialize precisely the kind of custom PV modules we are developing for these value-added applications. The new venture recently closed out a €10 million fundraising round, which will position it to scale its lightweight rooftop solar panels up for production, with a target of 100 MW per year by 2025. We are also developing photovoltaic solar solutions for land, maritime, air, and space transportation and mobility, including modules capable of increasing vehicle range and powering low-orbit satellite constellations.

All of our advances in photovoltaic solar energy contribute to a lower-carbon and more energy-efficient future. Higher yields and new use cases will support a sustainable energy transition and create economic opportunity.


1: Cells that use hydrogenated amorphous silicon.

2: A silicon tunnel oxide and polysilicon layer are used to passivate the surfaces, preventing the trapping of electro​ns.