The Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory has tapped Optomec’s aerosol jet deposition system to be part of its atmospheric processing platform in the Process Development and Integration Lab in Golden, CO. The noncontact system will be used primarily to develop deposition processes for metallization and coatings to reduce the cost of production of crystalline silicon and thin-film solar photovoltaic cells.
Optomec said that its aerosol jet system is ideally suited to be part of the NREL facility because it has been proven to increase the efficiencies of silicon solar cells by producing narrower, higher integrity collector lines with reduced shadowing effects. The technology enables fine-feature, noncontact printing of advanced PV materials onto nonplanar surfaces–without the need for masks or resists.
Since the aerosol jet technology uses a noncontact approach, the system can print on thinner silicon wafers, providing a higher manufacturing yield compared to wafer breakage caused by contact screen printing, according to Optomec. The technology should also dramatically reduce the overall cost of ownership compared with traditional screen printing.
“Optomec’s unique technology will be a complementary part of NREL’s atmospheric processing platform,” said NREL senior scientist Maikel van Hest, “which will enable us to push the use of atmospheric processing in photovoltaics to the highest level.”