AMG Advanced Metallurgical Group’s acquisition of the Mono 2 casting technology last year has paid off. The monocrystalline growth method has been granted a US patent. The patent was granted to AMG IdealCast Solar Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of AMG's Engineering Systems Division. There are four additional core patents still pending.
In December 2010, AMG bought the intellectual property and manufacturing assets for Mono 2 from BP Solar who, alongside the US Department of Energy, developed it. Now, AMG IdealCast has completed testing with key customers and is refining ingot growth conditions to fit customer-specific cell processes.
According to the Technology Review, Chinese solar panel manufacturers, including Suntech have also developed their own version of the same process. Suntech started selling solar panels made using the process last summer.
Roger Clark, chief operating officer of AMG IdealCast, who was also involved in the research effort at BP Solar said, at the time that there were concerns that the information had been leaked at various solar events during the development stage.
Clarke stated, “I'm sure people started putting enough information together to be at least moderately successful in replicating the process elsewhere.”
Increasing solar cell efficiencies will facilitate the reduction of cost per watt in today's solar market. AMG state that Mono 2 wafers have average cell efficiencies that are 1% (absolute) greater than that of standard multicrystalline wafers.
“Despite the near term challenges faced by the solar industry, there is increased interest for higher efficiency quasi-monocrystalline product from a cast-in-place furnace. AMG IdealCast can deliver the Mono 2 technology in a stable, production ready, and cost-effective manner,” said Clark.
Customers can produce Mono 2 Gen 5 test ingots on full-scale operating equipment using a SCU450 furnace from ALD at AMG IdealCast's facilities.