1366 Technologies today announced competitive cell efficiencies of 18% for its industry-standard, 156mm multi-crystalline wafers, as well as a solar industry first: the elimination of the “low efficiency tail” for cell manufacturers. The new technical results allow for a sharp reduction in the variance of wafer quality, a 50% tighter efficiency distribution compared to that of conventional multi-crystalline wafers, and efficiency ratings consistently above 17% – all without requiring cell customers to invest in new processing or handling equipment.
Customers using 1366’s proprietary Direct Wafer™ technology and passivated emitter rear contact cells (PERC) achieved 18% cell efficiencies. Trials conducted without PERC resulted in 17.5% competitive cell efficiencies. “We’re especially proud of these efficiency milestones because they’re not just about a single champion cell achieved in the lab. Our highest cells were above 18% with PERC and our efficiencies were consistently above 17% in conventional production runs. Direct Wafer™ delivers the best economic value at scale,” said Frank van Mierlo, CEO, 1366 Technologies.
Today, solar cell quality is impeded by what is known as the “low efficiency tail,” which results from a significant number of sub-par cells with efficiency ratings below 16.5 percent. These weak performers are the result of inconsistencies in the wafers, the largest determinant of poor efficiency. Because of the range of cell quality produced by traditional casting, manufacturers must discard the defective cells or sell the lower quality product at steep discounts, creating manufacturing, inventory and sales challenges that all contribute to higher costs. Direct Wafer’s™ repeatable process – where each wafer is grown one-at-a-time, under controlled conditions – reduces variations in quality. As a result, cell manufacturers can build a more dependable, superior product at a lower cost.
“Manufacturing is the science of reducing variability. In cutting the tail, we’ve eliminated the wide quality disparity associated with today’s multi-crystalline wafers,” continued van Mierlo. “Our learning curve is faster and our potential for higher overall efficiencies is greater because our innovations are that much better than standard silicon casting. We not only dramatically reduce the cost of making wafers, we make the wafers better.”
The 1366 team has also reached a wafer production rate that enables more than 5 MW per year for each furnace – on par with standard ingot casting furnaces while using just one half of the space. The Company will have three “copy exact” furnaces up and running in Q1 of 2015, the final step before building a 250 MW facility.
1366 Technologies’ Direct Wafer™ forms multi-crystalline wafers directly from molten silicon instead of today’s multi-step, energy- and capital-intensive process. The result is a uniformly better wafer, created at one-half the cost.
ST Staff Writers
This post was prepared by Solar Thermal Magazine staff.