Building the next generation of silicon solar cell in Europe

Technology News |
By Nick Flaherty

A European project is aiming to develop cost effective silicon solar cell manufacturing across the region.

The HighLite project links nine research institutes and eight industrial partners across the whole value chain. The €12.9m project is part of the Horizon 2020 programme and coordinated by imec, a partner in the EnergyVille programme and aims to show new production systems as pilot lines by 2022.

The project recognises that the cell design, manufacturing and connections are closely linked. It aims to develop several ultra-thin 100 μm thick crystalline silicon solar cell designs and manufacturing lines. The first is a n-PERT (Passivated Emitter and Rear Cell) with an efficiency over 22.5% on a research cell by March 2021, moving to over 23.0 per cent on quarter scale  cut-cells by September 2022. At the same time a full superheterojunction cell with a efficiency of 23.5 per cent is also planned, and as well as a full sized IBC (Interdigitated back contact) cell with an efficiency over 24.5 per cent.

These will be developed in parallel with the production pilot lines, aiming to build manufacturing capability in Europe rather than relying on imported modules. “The challenge is to create more secure and sustainable supply chains for the EU PV market, while substantially improving competitiveness of the EU PV manufacturing industry to help regain a part of this fast-growing market,” says the project.

“Taking profit of the unique strength of each partner and the available expertise in Europe in the field of crystalline silicon devices with passivating contacts, we can develop production solutions with higher performance, lower cost and better environmental profiles than those currently on the market,” says Loic Tous, project coordinator of HighLite and silicon PV team leader at imec/EnergyVille.

“By demonstrating on pilot-line-level how the next generation silicon PV modules can be manufactured, the project aims at significantly improving the competitiveness of the European PV industry.”

To improve performance and durability, the cells are being designed with passivating contacts and advanced cutting-edge re-passivation techniques. Industrial tools will be developed to assemble these cut-cells into high-efficiency modules tailored for various applications, especially for integration into buildings, rooftops or vehicles.

The project includes the University of Ljubljana, EPFL, CSEM, CEA-INES, ISC, ISFH, Fraunhofer ISE, TNO, PI-Berlin, Applied Materials, Henkel, IBS, 3D-Micromac, SoliTek, Valoe and Voltec.

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