The Fraunhofer Institute for Ceramic Technologies and Systems (IKTS) has selected Optomec’s aerosol jet solar lab system to be part of its energy systems department. The system, which will be installed at the IKTS facility in Dresden, Germany, will be primarily used to develop front-side collector line printing solutions to increase solar-cell efficiencies.
“Photovoltaics is one of the hottest R&D fields in our institute,” said IKTS director Alexander Michaels. “We specialize in materials and tool development for PV back end-of-line processes and collaborate with leading PV companies. For example, with Roth & Rau, a world-leading PV equipment supplier, we operate a real 10MW R&D production line. We are convinced that aerosol jet printing is one of the most promising technologies for future PV wafer processing.”
The aerosol jet system can increase the efficiencies of silicon solar cells by producing narrower, higher integrity collector lines with reduced shadowing effects, according to the New Mexico-based company. Optomec. The technology enables fine-feature, noncontact printing of advanced PV materials onto nonplanar surfaces without the need for masks or resists. Because of the noncontact nature of the aerosol jet approach, 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, Optomec believes that the aerosol jet technology will dramatically reduce the overall cost of ownership versus screen printing. For volume production applications, a high-throughput 40-nozzle aerosol jet deposition head (pictured above) has been developed that prints a solar cell every 2.5 to 3 seconds.
Other leading solar research institutions are working with the Optomec technology to develop next-generation PV print-processing techniques.
The Franuhofer ISE has demonstrated lab cell conversion efficiencies exceeding 20% using the aerosol jet approach, when combined with light-induced plating and annealing processes.
The U.S. National Renewable Energy Lab has also installed the noncontact deposition system as part of the atmospheric processing platform in its Process Development and Integration Lab in Golden, CO.