thin films



For over two decades, the Thin Films Laboratory (TFL) at the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute (HNEI) has been a leader in innovative material research and development for solar energy converter systems. Specifically, the TFL groundbreaking approach in material R&D allowed for a better understanding of the fundamental properties of numerous photovoltaic technologies, including amorphous silicon and polycrystalline copper-indium-gallium-diselenide (CIGSe) alloys. Aside from “conventional” PV systems, HNEI-TFL research activity also comprises the discovery of new photo-catalytic materials capable of direct conversion of sunlight into usable chemical energy, a.k.a. “Solar Fuels”, with focus on solar-driven water splitting for hydrogen production.

The Thin Films Lab is a unique facility at HNEI, situated with sophisticated state-of-the-art equipment for the fabrication of thin film materials and devices, including co-evaporation chambers, sputtering systems and plasma enhanced chemical vapor deposition devices.


The research team at TFL is also actively participating in the development of new low-cost synthesis protocols as a substitution to high temperature/vacuum based thin films deposition techniques. The recent introduction of chemistry in solar cell manufacturing was undoubtedly a game changer in material design and could potentially reduce cell production costs. After two decades of R&D in vacuum-based thin film material synthesis, HNEI TFL is now taking a step further toward chemical-based solar cell manufacturing.

For further information about this facility and the research activities carried out in it, contact Nicolas Gaillard.

Staff | Publications

Deposition Equipment

PECVD System: MV-Systems dual-chamber high-vacuum "plasma enhanced chemical vapor deposition" system with load lock for depositing amorphous and microcrystalline silicon and germanium alloys. Applications include fabrication of photovoltaic materials and devices; and visible and infrared sensors.
CIGS Evaporation System: Varian 3125 diffusion-pumped multisource evaporator including five independently-controlled furnaces for elemental co-deposition of copper, indium, gallium, selenium and sodium. For fabrication of CIS and CIGS photovoltaic materials and devices.
Sputtering Deposition System: Perkin-Elmer 2400 turbomolecular-pumped three-gun co-sputtering system. Applications include: transparent conducting oxides; catalysts and other novel films; and refractory metal films.
Metal Thermal Evaporation System: NRC 3117 diffusion-pumped four-source thermal evaporator for depositing metallic films and contact grids.
CdS Film Deposition: Chemical bath system currently handling two 5 cm x 9 cm substrates. Expandable to a larger area.


Semiconductor/Solar Cell Characterization Station: including high-precision electronic measurement equipment, temperature-controlled probe chuck, solar simulator and LED light sources. Measurement capabilities include:
  • temperature-dependent light/dark JV characterization (pA resolution)
  • temperature-dependent AC & DC conductivity measurement
  • temperature-dependent CV measurement
  • transient response characterizations (ns resolution)
Electrochemical Test Station: including high-precision electronic measurement equipment and Plexiglas fixtures for test- and reference-electrode mounting. Measurement capabilities include voltammetry and cyclic voltammetry (pA resolution), and long-term corrosion testing.
Quantum Efficiency System: MRG model QE1800 for measurement of photocollection in thin film devices in the 350 - 1800nm wavelength range.
UV-VIS Photospectrometer: Perkin-Elmer model Lambda 2 with integrating sphere: for optical transmission, reflection and absorption measurements of thin films.
Surface Profilometer: Tencor Alpha Step model 200 for thin-film thickness measurements.
Four-Point Probe Station: Signatone model S301-6: automated system for film resistivity measurements.
Gas Chromatograph: Varian with TCD/FID detectors.

Gas Chromatograph: Shimadzu GC14-A.

Surface Analysis at UH
In addition to the HNEI equipment listed above, the UH campus boasts a wide range of sophisticated surface analysis techniques which are generally available on a recharge basis.

  • X-ray Diffraction system (Scintag model PAD V)
  • Scanning Electron Microscope (Zeiss Model DSM-962) with EDX capability
  • High resolution Scanning Electron Microscope (Hitachi model S-800)
  • Fourier Transform Infrared Spectrometer (Thermo-Nicolet)
  • Two Spex triplemate Raman instruments with C.C.D. detectors, computer controlled data acquisition system and micro Raman attachment
  • Advanced Confocal Microscope (Bio-Rad Micro-science Division)
  • Atomic Force Microscope (Nanoscope Instuments)
  • Scanning Tunneling Microscope (Nanoscope Instruments)
  • Ernst-Leitz Scanning Acoustic Microscope (ELSAM)
  • Sandercock six-pass tandem Brillouin scattering system
  • Fully automated ellipsometer (Auto-EL-III Rudolph Research)


Richard E. Rocheleau

HNEI Director
Richard E.
Richard E. Rocheleau

Hawaii Natural Energy Institute
School of Ocean And Earth Science And Technology
University of Hawaii at Manoa

(808) 956-8346
(808) 956-2336

Member, AIChE, Materials Research Society, International Association for Hydrogen Energy, Electrochemical Society

Research interests include the development of novel vapor deposition techniques for production of thin film solar cells and sensors, development of cost-effective technologies for renewable hydrogen production, and the testing and development of high performance fuel cells for military and civilian applications. Specific projects have included development of copper- indium-diselenide solar cells on light weight flexible substrates, development of processes for photoelectrochemical hydrogen production, and development of hydrogen fuel purity guidelines for fuel cell application.

University of Hawaii Information: 

Director, Hawaii Natural Energy Institute, Jan. 2002 - present
Interim Director, Hawaii Natural Energy Institute, Dec. 1999 - Jan. 2002
Acting Director, Hawaii Natural Energy Institute, Sept. 1998 - Dec. 1998
Researcher, Hawaii Natural Energy Institute, 1997 -1999
Graduate Faculty, Department of Mechanical Engineering, 1992 -
Graduate Faculty, Department of Electrical Engineering, 1989 -
Associate Researcher, Hawaii Natural Energy Institute, 1988 - 1997

Other Professional: 

Manager, Institute of Energy Conversion (IEC), Reactor Design and Analysis Group, University of Delaware, 1986 -1988
Engineer, Institute of Energy Conversion, University of Delaware, 1980 - 1986
Research Assistant, Department of Chemical Engineering, University of Delaware, 1977-1980
Research Assistant, Department of Ocean Engineering, University of Hawaii, 1975 - 1977
Engineer, Mobil Research and Development Corp., Paulsboro, NJ., 1973 - 1975


Ph.D., Chemical Engineering, University of Delaware, 1980
Modeling and design of a chemical reactor for continuous deposition of CdS thin-film
semiconductors for photovoltaic applications
MS., Ocean Engineering, University of Hawaii, 1977
BS., Chemical Engineering, University of Delaware, 1973 with Honors and Distinction
Awarded Outstanding Graduate from the College of Engineering

Selected Publications: 

Over 25 publications in peer reviewed journals and over 20 conference proceedings in the areas of photovoltaics, photoelectrochemical hydrogen production, and thin-film electronic materials. Six patents and three patent disclosures.

Hihara, L.H., A. Iwane, S. Voss, R.E. Rocheleau, and Z.E. Zhang. 1998. Initiation of Corrosion in Metal Substrates Coated with Plasma-Deposited Hydrogenated Amorphous Silicon Alloy Thin Films. Corrosion Science

Rocheleau, R.E., E.L. Miller, and A. Misra. 1998. High-Efficiency Photoelectrochemical Hydrogen Production Using Multijunction Amorphous Silicon Photoelectrodes. Energy and Fuels 12:3-10.

Rocheleau, R.E., and E.L. Miller. 1997. Photoelectrochemical Production of Hydrogen: Engineering Loss Analysis. International Journal of Hydrogen Energy 22:771-782.

Rocheleau, R.E., M. Tun, and S. Hegedus. 1997. Analysis and Optimization of High-Efficiency Multijunction a- Si:H Solar Cells. In Proceedings of 26th IEEE PV Specialists Conference. New York: Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

Sharfarman, W.N., B.M. Basol, J.S. Britt, R.B. Hall, and R.E. Rocheleau. 1997. Semiconductor Processing and Manufacturing. Progress in Photovoltaics: Research and Applications 5:359-364.

Miller, E.L., and R.E. Rocheleau. 1997. Electrochemical Behavior of Reactively Sputtered Iron-Doped Nickel Oxide. Journal of the Electrochemical Society 144:3072-3077.

Miller, E.L., and R.E. Rocheleau. 1997. Opto-Electronic and Electrochemical Properties of Sputter-Deposited NiOx Thin-Film Catalysts. Journal of the Electrochemical Society 144:1995-2003.

Rocheleau, R.E., E.L. Miller, A. Misra, and S. Song. 1996. Hydrogen Production Using Multijunction Amorphous Silicon Photoelectrodes. In Hydrogen Energy Progress XI. Edited by T.N. Veziroglu, C.J. Winter, J.P. Baselt, and G. Kreysa. Schon & Wetzel GnibH 3:2755-2760.

Rocheleau, R.E., and M. Vierthaler. 1994. Optimization of Multijunction a-Si:H Solar Cells Using an Integrated Optical/Electrical Model. In Proceedings of the 21st World Conference on Photovoltaic Energy Conversion. New York: Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

Additional Publications: 
Richard Rocheleau

Principal Investigator or co-Principal Investigator on over $10 million of extramurally funded research in photovoltaics, hdyrogen technologies, and fuel cells.

US Department of Energy, "Hawaii Hydrogen Center for the Development an Deployment of Distributed Energy Technologies. Sept 2004 -

Office of Naval Research "Hawaii Energy & Environmental Technology Initiative" June 2001 -

Triton Systems " CIGS Solar Cell Fabrication and Testing" Jan 2004 -
Trex Corporation, "Photoconductor on Active Pixel Image Sensors" August 1998 - June 2000

National Defense Center of Excellence for Research in Ocean Sciences through Sea Engineering. "Development of an Ultra-High Resolution Stress Detection System for Marine Applications. November 1998 - October 2000.

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