Roth & Rau starts Swiss unit, opens solar-cell technology development center at IMT

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Roth & Rau has opened a technology center for the development of future-generation solar cells at the Swiss Institute for Microtechnology (EPFL/IMT), as part of a three-year agreement that the two organizations signed in May 2008. A Swiss subsidiary of Roth & Rau has been established in conjunction with the installation of the research line and siting of a team of scientists and engineers at IMT’s Neuchâtel campus.

The facility will be used to develop equipment, technologies, and processes for the production of highly efficient crystalline silicon solar cells based on heterojunction technology, according to the partners.

“We are doing intensive research at Neuchâtel into the next-but-one generation of solar cells, which will achieve efficiency ratios of 20% and more,” said Roth & Rau’s CEO, Dietmar Roth (pictured). “We have already obtained the first promising results and are confident that the new manufacturing technologies including the required plant technology and processes will be ready for mass production in 2011.”

Up to this point, heterojunction solar-cell technology has been used on an industrial scale by a single company–Sanyo. Heterojunction cells are based on a relatively simple low-temperature manufacturing concept; they are characterized by excellent passivation, which leads to very high efficiencies and excellent temperature behavior, the company said.

“We aim to consolidate our technology leadership with innovative products and hence to grow our company in the long term,” explained Bernd Rau, managing director of Roth & Rau Switzerland and group R&D officer. “Comprehensive investments in research and development like here in Neuchâtel are the basis for this growth.”

The IMT operation is not the only external technology center where Roth & Rau has become heavily involved over the past year. The company announced in July its intention to renew and expand its partnership with SVTC Technologies, including the establishment of a 30MW development and manufacturing line at SVTC’s new Silicon Valley Photovoltaic Development Center in San Jose.

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