US start-up, Scifiniti is developing a low-cost ‘SmartWafer’ that is claimed to enhance the performance and significantly lower the cost of silicon-based products.
To enable the continued cost reduction and growth of solar-based energy, the largest opportunity in the value chain is to dramatically decrease the cost of the silicon wafer. SmartWafer has been engineered specifically for solar cell manufacturing, unlike traditional wafers that have been adapted from the semiconductor industry.
SmartWafer uses a thin, deposited, high-quality silicon layer on a conductive substrate, offering the same form-factor as a standard wafer enabling a “drop-in” replacement. Cell and module manufacturers can use the SmartWafer without any changes to existing processes or purchase new capital equipment. The company estimates that high purity silicon usage is reduced by more than 90% and provide improved yields from reduce wafer breakage rates when compared to conventional wafers. The wafers comprise a 30 micrometer high quality multicrystalline silicon active layer, on top of a 170 micrometer low cost substrate for mechanical support. Scifiniti notes that a silicon layer of 30 to 50 microns with effective light trapping has the same conversion efficiency as a conventional wafer of 160 – 180 microns.
SmartWafers comprise a 30 micron high quality multicrystalline silicon active layer. Along with the SmartWafer, Scifiniti has developed a number of new technologies, including an in-line continuous deposition system, a crystallization system and advanced semi-grade ceramic processes.