Natcore Technology has been awarded a patent by the US Patent Office for its solar cell structure, which uses carbon nanotubes for enhanced cell performance. This patent is based off three earlier foundational patents, the first of which was issued to Rice University and licensed to Natcore. The first patent involved a liquid phase deposition (LPD) process for growing inorganic films on silicon.
The remaining two foundational patents, which Rice University and Natcore jointly own, include a patent for the growth of silicon dioxide on carbon nanotubes and a patent for the growth of inorganic semiconductors, such as cadmium telluride and cadmium selenide, on carbon nanotubes.
“The nanostructured flexible thin film solar cell that we're developing is made using our patented LPD technology,” stated Chuck Provini, Natcore’s president and CEO. “Both the fabrication process and the cell structure covered by this new patent are exclusive to Natcore. The near-term module efficiency using this technology is projected to be equivalent to commercial silicon modules at 15% to 16%, and the longer-term improvements could raise the efficiency to 20% or more.”
The new patent, scheduled to be issued on July 1, is wholly owned by Natcore and encompasses the use of inorganic semiconductor-coated nanotubes for the production of high-efficiency thin-film solar cells. Natcore acknowledged that it is in talks with Eastman Kodak and Phono Solar of China for the commercialization of the technology on equipment that was once used to manufacture photo film before digital photography developed into a more burgeoning market.
“In order for solar energy to become economically viable, one of two things must happen,” continued Provini. “Someone must find a way either to double the efficiency of solar cells, or to halve their cost. Natcore is responding to both of those challenges. Our scientists working at Rice University continue to make important progress on an all-silicon tandem solar cell, which would bring huge gains in efficiency. And with this new patent, thin film solar cells may be the ultimate future of photovoltaic solar energy technology because their lower materials usage should result in lower manufacturing cost in very high volume production.