SCHOTT Solar, a leading photovoltaics manufacturer, entered into a 3 year
research partnership with IMEC,
Europe's leading independent nanoelectronics research center. SCHOTT Solar
joins IMEC's newly launched silicon photovoltaics industrial affiliation
program (IIAP). Within this multi-partner R+D program, IMEC aims to explore
and develop advanced process technologies to fuel the steep market growth of
silicon solar cells in a sustainable way. The program will concentrate on a
sharp reduction in silicon use, whilst increasing cell efficiency and hence
further lowering substantially the cost per Watt peak.
By joining the silicon photovoltaics IIAP, researchers from SCHOTT Solar will
be able to closely collaborate with IMEC's research team to build up fundamental
understanding and develop robust solutions for next-generation silicon based
solar cells. The program will bring together silicon solar cell manufacturers,
equipment and material suppliers and is based on a sharing of intellectual property,
talent, risk and cost.
“We are excited that one of the leading photovoltaics manufacturers joins
our multi-partner program. Building on our 25 years track record in silicon
solar cells and our successful experience with Industrial Affiliation Programs
on CMOS scaling, we are confident that we will provide our partners a dynamic
research platform for accelerated process development;” said Jef Poortmans,
Program Director Solar+ at IMEC.
“With over 50 years of experience in the solar market, including cell
technology, SCHOTT Solar is established leader in the solar industry. In the
highly dynamic market of solar power, short time to market for new products
is essential. Therefore, SCHOTT Solar is pleased to announce that the company
has joined the high-level IIAP R&D program at IMEC, the leading research
institute in the field. We support IMEC's ambitious goals and their work
towards creating success their partners,” said Dr. Martin Heming, Chief
Executive Officer at SCHOTT Solar AG.
Crystalline silicon solar cells are the workhorse of the photovoltaic industry,
having a market share of more than 90% of the world production of solar cells.
Within its IIAP, IMEC aims to reduce both the cost of producing crystalline
silicon solar cells and the amount of Si/Watt that is needed by a factor of
2 to 3. Efficiencies over 20% are targeted.
IMEC's program will explore both wafer-based bulk silicon solar cells
and epitaxial cells. Within the bulk-silicon solar cell sub-program, generic
process technology crucial for increased efficiency and manufacturing cost reduction
will be developed. The active silicon layer thickness will be reduced from 150µm
down to 40µm. To meet efficiencies of up to 20%, alternative back-side
dielectric stacks and interdigitated back-side contacts (i-BC) will be introduced
in thin-wafers using a PERL-style (PERL = passivated emitter and rear local
back surface field) concept in an industrial process flow. Cell module integration
will be investigated since reduced wafer thickness will impose specific integration
requirements. As the guaranteed lifetime of cells and modules will further increase
in the next decade from 20-25 years up to 35 years and more, reliability will
also be assessed in depth. And new methods to realize and handle wafers as thin
as 40µm will be pursued. The potential of the technology will be benchmarked
in small area lab cells and large-area solar cells.
Besides the generic bulk silicon research which is of relevance for any crystalline
silicon wafer-based solar cell technology, epitaxial thin-film (<20µm)
silicon solar cells on low-cost silicon carrier will also be developed. Epitaxial
thin-film silicon solar cell technology is expected to be the intermediate step
before mainstream fabs will switch from bulk silicon solar cells to thin-film
solar cells. The process is generically similar to the bulk process and the
epi-process can be implemented with limited equipment investment. To improve
the optical confinement of light in the active part of the cell, a buried porous
Si reflector will be developed.