Applied Nanotech Holdings, Inc. (OTCBB:APNT) announced that it has been awarded a Phase III SBIR grant, in the amount of $1.6 million, from the US Department of Energy to establish a pilot production facility to manufacture and commercialize its proprietary ink materials for the application of metallic conductor layers on thin silicon solar cells.
This Phase III funding is part of the $57M Xlerator program to support Small Business and develop manufacturing processes and scale production of advanced technologies. The Phase III program will focus on the transition of technology related to photovoltaic compatible inks successfully demonstrated during a Phase II research Program into a pilot scale production. This funding provides a pathway to install the infrastructure needed for small capacity manufacturing of these highly specialized ink materials. The pilot facility is expected to be operational in 90-120 days.
The availability of non-contact printable ink materials will enable next generation thin-silicon cells to achieve volume production. Current cell manufacturing relies on screen-printing processes for the application of the metallic contacts. The applied pressure during the screen printing process can break or damage silicon wafers when their thickness is below 200 microns. There are efficiency gains and greatly reduced materials costs that are realized through the use of thin silicon wafers. A transition of wafer thickness to 100 microns can only be possible through the use of non-contact printing processes such as inkjet or Optomec's Aerosol Jet ®. ANI's ink materials, specifically its aluminum ink, are enabling materials for this technology transition. The use of non-contact printable materials can also provide a pathway to the production of advanced silicon solar cell architectures such as those required for interdigitated back contact solar cells.
"This Phase III grant will be a wonderful vehicle to help launch products for the fast-growing clean energy market. In addition to our previous recognition by R&D 100 for our copper ink, this grant is a wonderful validation of our nanoparticle ink technology," said Dr. Zvi Yaniv, CEO of Applied Nanotech, Inc.
"The grant will accelerate the commercialization of our inks for use in the solar cell industry," said Doug Baker, CEO of APNT. "It allows us greater control in the process of bringing a product to market and will allow us to generate additional revenues beyond the grant amount through the production and sale of inks."