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NREL Selects Aerosol Jet System to Reduce Cost of Production of Crystalline Silicon and Thin Film Solar Cells

Published on June 3, 2009 at 8:02 PM

Optomec, world-leading provider of additive manufacturing systems for high-performance applications in the Photovoltaic, Electronics, Biomedical, and Aerospace + Defense markets, announced today that the company's Aerosol Jet deposition system has been selected to be part of the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory's Atmospheric Processing Platform in the Process Development and Integration Lab (PDIL). The Aerosol Jet system, which will be installed at NREL's facility in Golden, Colorado, will be primarily used to develop deposition processes for metallization and coatings to reduce cost of production of Crystalline Silicon and Thin Film solar cells. Dr. Maikel van Hest, NREL Senior Scientist, states, “Optomec's unique technology will be a complementary part of NREL's Atmospheric Processing Platform, which will enable us to push the use of atmospheric processing in photovoltaics to the highest level.”

The PDIL is located within the Science and Technology Facility, the newest and most innovative laboratory space at NREL. The PDIL brings together technical experts from NREL, the solar industry, and universities to access a unique equipment, development and analysis infrastructure. The focus of their research includes gaining a deeper understanding of semiconductor physics, creating better materials, developing novel device structures, and improving manufacturing methods. The PDIL provides researchers with unique capabilities for fabricating and studying a wide range of solar cell technologies. This collaborative facility brings together a state-of-the-art suite of deposition, processing and characterization tools.

The Aerosol Jet system is ideally suited to be part of the NREL facility because it has been proven to increase the efficiencies of silicon solar cells by producing narrower, higher integrity collector lines with reduced shadowing effects. The Aerosol Jet technology enables fine feature, non-contact printing of advanced photovoltaic materials onto non-planar surfaces without the need for masks or resists. Because of the non-contact nature of Aerosol Jet technology, the system can print on thinner silicon wafers, providing a higher manufacturing yield compared to wafer breakage caused by contact screen printing. In addition to functional gains, Aerosol Jet is also projected to dramatically reduce the overall cost of ownership versus screen printing. Click here to get more information on Aerosol Jet printing for solar applications.

Dave Ramahi, Optomec President/CEO, states that “PDIL is a global focal point that brings together experts from the solar industry to further the state of the art in photovoltaic technology. We are very proud that Aerosol Jet technology will play a role in this endeavor.”

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