RF Micro Devices produces its first III-V solar cell: low-cost volume cell expected in 2012

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Compound semiconductor manufacturer RF Micro Devices (RFMD) has claimed its first milestone toward entering volume production of III-V-based multijunction PV cells on six-inch gallium arsenide (GaAs) wafers with the successful fabrication of solar cells using its standard semiconductor fab equipment.

Last year, RFMD started to collaborate with the U.S.Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to develop a commercially viable and high volume-capable compound semiconductor-based process for high-performance multijunction PV cells based on NREL’s cell design IP.  RFMD plans production to begin in 2012, making it a low-cost leader for the CPV-based cells and potentially opens up the CPV market to better compete on cost per watt levels with conventional c-Si and thin-film technologies.

“NREL’s collaboration with RFMD demonstrates our commitment to developing the best technologies for renewable energy and aligning with the most capable partners to commercialize and deploy each technology,” commented NREL Director Dan Arvizu “We applaud RFMD’s successful achievement of this first technical performance milestone.”

RFMD is expected to take move from the ‘foundation phase’ of the project to a  ‘technology demonstration phase,’ which will use NREL’s IP and technology, which in the lab has demonstrated the highest reported solar cell conversion efficiencies, at 40.8%.

Six-inch wafer production is the largest size used for III-V semiconductor fabrication in volume applications. Currently, compound-based solar cells are fabricated on smaller wafer sizes and low-productivity tool sets.

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