U.S. Department of Energy

Photovoltaic Supply Chain and Cross-Cutting Technologies

Four projects are working to accelerate the development of revolutionary products or processes for the photovoltaic (PV) industry through the High Impact Supply Chain R&D for PV Technologies/Systems program, which represents the second round of PV Supply Chain and Cross-Cutting Technologies funding. These projects encourage innovation in companies across the solar energy supply chain and develop PV-specific solutions from non-solar innovations, including:

  • Processing steps that improve throughput, yield, or diagnostics
  • Materials that improve reliability or enhance optical, thermal, or electrical performance
  • System components that streamline installation.

On Feb. 4, 2011, DOE announced $20.3 million to fund these projects. The awardees are targeting manufacturing and product cost reductions with the potential to have an impact within 2 to 6 years on a substantial segment of the PV industry.

Awardees

1366 Technologies, Inc. ($3 million)
Lexington, Massachusetts
Silicon wafers remain the single largest cost component in the manufacture of silicon PV modules. The high cost stems from inefficient ingot casting and sawing, which can result in 50% of purified and crystallized silicon wasted as kerf. In turn, scaling production is slowed by the high capital costs of silicon refining, ingot making, and sawing facilities. The 1366 Direct Wafer manufacturing process reduces wafer costs by 60%, eliminating the cost barrier imposed by sawn wafers. The kerf-free, 156 mm standard silicon wafers allow high throughput for very low capital expense and rapid scale up. The heat transfer, which is perpendicular to the plane of the wafer, creates thin, flat, low stress, high lifetime wafers.

3M Company ($4.4 million)
St. Paul, Minnesota
3M’s objective is to develop and commercialize a flexible, highly transparent ultra barrier topsheet (UBT) that enables successful commercialization and growth of flexible solar modules manufactured from second and third generation photovoltaic technologies. This UBT is being manufactured with a proprietary high volume, low cost roll-to-roll process that has the potential to meet or exceed the technical requirements for these solar technologies. Successful commercialization of the UBT could have a dramatic impact on the solar industry by reducing total costs for installation in current markets such as commercial rooftop and residential building integrated photovoltaics (BIPV). Furthermore, it could also grow the range of applications to newer markets, such as consumer products and automotive applications.

PPG Industries, Inc. ($3.1 million)
Cheswick, Pennsylvania
The goal of this project is to develop the materials, coating designs, and manufacturing processes necessary to commercialize a new glass article for the cadmium telluride (CdTe) module manufacturing industry. This new glass article combines an improved transparent conductive oxide plus buffer layer, a high transmission glass substrate, and a low-soiling anti-reflective (LSAR) coating into one product offering. The combination of these various technologies into a single product results in performance gains and improvements in module cost. The cost reductions stem from the choice of deposition technology, scaling to high volume manufacturing, and systems integration of multiple coating operations.

Varian Semiconductor Equipment Associates, Inc. ($4.8 million)
Gloucester, Massachusetts
The goal of this project is to reduce the cost of manufacturing interdigitated back contact (IBC) cells—the most efficient solar cells on the market. Although IBC cells typically achieve 23% efficiency, they have gained only a small market share because of the high cost of creating the interdigitated doped regions by diffusion. This project is replacing diffusion with in situ patterned ion implantation, thereby reducing the number of steps in IBC fabrication from 26 to 10 and reducing the associated manufacturing cost per wafer.

Learn about the projects funded through the first round of the PV Supply Chain and Cross-Cutting Technologies program.