The US Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has given an exclusive patent licence to equipment specialist, Natcore Technology, to use its diffused emitter technology Black Silicon with Natcore’s liquid phase deposition (LPD) technology. The black silicon process has been claimed by Natcore scientists and NREL researchers to reduce average reflectivity to less than 1.5%, compared to current advanced antireflective coatings that are said to reduce the average reflectivity to approximately 6%. The aim is to commercialize the technology in 2012.
“Natcore has the ability to passivate black silicon cells using their liquid phase deposition (LPD) technology,” noted Dr. Dennis Flood, Natcore's chief technology officer. “That has been the missing piece. It's what will enable black silicon to reach its potential. Before Natcore's passivation technology, it was necessary to put coated cells into a 1,000ºC furnace to create a thermal oxide.”
According to Natcore, its LPD silica coating achieves passivation without requiring an extra thermal process, reducing processing costs, while increasing cell efficiencies.
“We're combining NREL's black silicon technology with our LPD and passivation technologies, commented Natcore President and CEO Chuck Provini. “We'll optimize the combined processes and incorporate them into our AR-Box. AR-Box enables use of an all-liquid phase process for creating ultralow reflectivity, high-performance silicon solar cells at high volume production rates.”
The NREL license contains a development and commercialization plan that establishes technical and market milestones for Natcore, some which are needed to be met by August, 2012. The deal with NREL also includes a royalty structure.
The NREL Black Silicon technology should not be confused with SiOnyx’s Black Silicon surface texturing technology.