Quantum Solar Power Corp. ("Quantum") (OTCBB: QSPW) is in the development stages of a solar cell technology that could alter the solar power industry's dependence on rare elements.
A rapidly growing sector of the solar cell market is thin-film photovoltaics, so called because of their thin layers of photovoltaic material deposited on a substrate, sometimes only nanometers thick. Although less efficient than silicon PV (most efficient), thin film is growing rapidly due to its lower manufacturing costs. This growth however may be limited by the use of exotic materials in thin-film device manufacture. Leading thin-film devices are based upon CdTe (Cadmium Telluride) and CIGS (Copper indium gallium selenide) technologies that utilize the rare elements indium ($285 per kg in Jan 2009 now $530 per kg), tellurium ($150 per kg in Jan 2010 now $295 per kg) and gallium ($450 per kg in Jan 2010 now $750 per kg). These elements are scarce globally and critical to current thin-film production. Current global electrical consumption is 10 terawatts (ten trillion watts). If thin-film PV solar power is to replace fossil fuel generated power in the future, it must be scalable to this level of production. Given the current limits on the elements used in its production, thin-film PV faces major challenges in its effort to compete with conventional power generation. Additionally, thin-film PV competes for these rare element resources with flat panel LCD TV's and other electronics. Research suggests there may be less than ten years supply remaining of indium alone.
Quantum believes their emerging NGD™ (Next Generation Device) technology will provide high efficiency solar cells with prices competitive with coal generated electricity without the use of any rare elements. According to Quantum's Chief Technology Officer, Dr. Andras Pattantyus-Abraham, "We are extremely excited about the advancements we have made in the past several months. By eliminating the semiconductor layer in conventional PV as the primary absorber of photons, our patent-pending NGD™ would replace the need for rare elements that limit the terawatt-scale deployment of current photovoltaics." Daryl Ehrmantraut, Quantum's CEO, stated, "The sophisticated quantum-level processes employed by Quantum's NGD™ research has a real possibility to finally break down the competitive barrier between solar power and fossil fuels."