By Niels E. Posthuma, Team Leader High Efficiency Rear Contact Solar Cells, IMEC; Joachim John, Project Leader, Process Technology Division, IMEC; Guy Beaucarne, Solar Cell Technology Group Leader, IMEC; Emmanuel Van Kerschaver, Senior R&D Engineer, IMEC
In any solar cell process, the metallization step is critical as it often sets conditions and limitations for the other process steps. The main metallization technique used today in Si solar cell production is screen-printing of metallic pastes, namely Ag pastes for the front side, Al pastes for most of the rear side, and Ag or Ag-Al pastes for the solder pads at the rear. While these techniques are clearly robust and convenient, they have limitations. Therefore alternatives are being investigated. A technique that is presently finding its way into production is two-step metallization with Ag plating. Another more radical approach is to avoid printing altogether, instead using some kind of ablation followed by plating. For the rear, the full Al-BSF is being replaced by dielectric passivation and local Al-alloyed contacts. Back-contacted cells are increasingly being introduced in production, and they pose very specific challenges to metallization. For the sustainability of Si photovoltaics, it is crucial that the future metallization solutions only make use of abundantly available and non-toxic materials.