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Back-contact technology: Will we need it in the future?

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By Radovan Kopecek, Joris Libal, Andreas Halm, Haifeng Chu, Giuseppe Galbiati, Valentin D. Mihailetchi, Jens Theobald & Andreas Schneider, International Solar Energy Research Center (ISC) Konstanz, Germany

The back-contact (BC) technology currently available on the market is considered to be either highly efficient but extremely expensive (interdigitated back contact – IBC – from SunPower) or, if cost-effective, not very
efficient (metal wrap-through – MWT) compared with what is becoming today’s new standard: passivated emitter and rear contact (PERC) technology. Something in between, such as low-cost, high-efficiency IBC cells
and modules, would therefore be desirable. This paper briefly describes the past, focuses on the present, and forecasts the possible future developments of BC technology in respect of efficiencies, costs and applications.

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This issue of Photovoltaics International focuses on the steady adoption of PERC as the technology of choice for providing a quick boost to cell performances. Our chief analyst, Finlay Colville, reports that PERC is a key driver for internal technology roadmaps of all silicon cell providers and is indirectly influencing the development of other technologies in competing n-type and thin-film segments. However, PERC is not without its drawbacks, and one of these is its increased susceptibility to light-induced degradation. Other highlights include ISC Konstanz on the future of back-contact technology and ECN on the development of a new technique for minimising recombination losses in silicon solar cells.

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