New technologies promise more solar cell efficiency

solar cell efficiency

by Antonio Pasolini on September 15, 2009

A silicon photovoltaic company unveiled yesterday two technologies for multi-crystalline silicon solar cells aimed at manufacturers striving to reach 18 percent efficiency. 1366 Technologies’ Self-Aligned Cell (SAC) architecture promises to “break the historic efficiency and cost tradeoff of photovoltaics (PV) by providing mono-crystalline equivalent cell efficiencies at multi-crystalline cell costs.”

One of the technologies address cell texture by creating a distinctive honeycomb structure that introduces cross-textured surfaces to the cell that trap more light and enable up to 1 percent higher absolute efficiency overall than previous cell designs. The second one focuses on the front-side cell metallization, wherein the company has developed metallization lines of just 30 microns (compared to the prevailing 120 microns) and a Grooved Ribbon busbar (licensed by Ulbrich and Schlenk). Industry standard thick fingers and flat busbars typically shade 9 percent of the surface of a cell. Comparatively, 1366′s front-side metallization approach only shades 2 percent of the cell delivering 75 percent of the efficiency gains of back-contact cell designs without the high costs and process complexity.

“We’ve pioneered a cell architecture and manufacturing process that’s going to change the way we think about energy,” said Frank van Mierlo, co-founder and president of 1366 Technologies. “Our innovations have the potential to save manufacturers $50 billion over the next five years and help the industry deliver solar at the cost of coal.”

In the past, PV companies have tried to increase efficiencies by using approaches such as back-contact or emitter wrap through solar cell technology, which add expensive steps to the manufacturing process with minimal gains in cell efficiency.

“The way we see it, the right technology and materials are available now to help PV reach grid parity, but the challenge for our industry is to simultaneously deliver high efficiencies and low costs,” said Dr. Emanuel Sachs, 1366 Technologies’ Chief Technology Officer. “Our Self-Aligned Cell architecture addresses this challenge head-on. We believe our technologies, combined with further advancements in manufacturing, will help solar power satisfy 7 percent of global electricity demand over the next decade and inspire one of the largest manufacturing revolutions in history.”

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