SAFC Hitech highlights material developments for solar applications

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Specialty materials producer, SAFC Hitech, well known in the semiconductor industry, has officially moved into the PV manufacturing market with details revealed about key programs it is collaborating on across multiple areas, which include thin-film (CdTe and CIGS), CPV, and c-Si solar cells.

“To encourage increased adoption of solar energy, there is a clear need for solar power to become both more efficient and more cost-effective relative to the coal-based electricity rate,” commented Philip Rose, SAFC Hitech President. “To meet the rise in demand and the need for improved energy efficiency at lower cost across the solar market, a number of new processes and new technologies are being researched and examined. 

“SAFC Hitech’s goal now is, through collaborative agreements with strategic partners, to integrate new precursor usage efficiently to improve user processes and support the PV industry with a wide range of products suited to all competing technologies.”

SAFC Hitech noted that in the field of concentrated PV (CPV) applications it was focusing on the supply of high purity chemicals at reduced cost to improve the process dynamics. In particular, metalorganic production is being scaled up provide for increased volumes in an ‘economically favorable’ manner, the company noted.

In the field of solar-based nanotechnology, SAFC Hitech, along with a consortium of partners which includes CEA, INES, Tyndall Institute, TU Delft and Uppsala University, are participating in Semiconductor Nanomaterial for Advanced Photovoltaic Solar cells (or SNAPSUN), a European-based project that is working to develop thin-film coatings for standard silicon cells.

SNAPSUN is focused on Si-based nanotechnology and nanoscience studies to create a breakthrough semiconductor nanomaterial with a high potential to solve the issue of charge transport, along with related processes that will allow the fabrication of high efficiency PV devices without relying on expensive/rare elements.

The aim of the project is to improve absorption across third generation solar technology. The SNAPSUN project is said to be reporting its findings in March 2011.

SAFC Hitech said it would be involved in the development of the latter process for industrial scale-up and implementation with specific attention to chemical solution provision for stable cocktails capable of direct use to form the nanoparticle in matrix films by simple coating mechanisms.

To support the existing CdTe and CIGS device manufacture on a large scale, SAFC Hitech said it could provide chemicals for both vapor phase and chemical deposition techniques. 

Optimization of complete vapor deposition technologies (TCO, Absorber and window layers) are being studied for an ongoing collaboration with teams involved in the PV21 SuperGEN project – the main UK government and industry supported University network currently in place. 

This project is studying the commercial aspects of all the main existing technologies along with the viability of new disruptive approaches. 

Overall the company is wanting to eliminate toxic, high price, scarce elements from solar cell structures without impacting cell efficiencies, while enabling further cell performance gains at lower cost in high-volume production.

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