Applied Ventures invests in BT Imaging

BT Imaging Pty Ltd (BTi), supplier of luminescence-based inspection and quality control systems for the photovoltaic manufacturing industry, completed its Series A2 financing round totaling US$3.8 million (Aus$4.5 million). This round of financing includes existing investors Allen & Buckeridge and Uniseed, and new investor, Applied Ventures LLC, the venture capital arm of Applied Materials Inc. (Nasdaq: AMAT). This article includes a podcast on the technology.

(August 23, 2010) — BT Imaging Pty Ltd (BTi), supplier of luminescence-based inspection and quality control systems for the photovoltaic manufacturing industry, completed its Series A2 financing round totaling US$3.8 million (Aus$4.5 million). This round of financing includes existing investors Allen & Buckeridge and Uniseed, and new investor, Applied Ventures LLC, the venture capital arm of Applied Materials Inc. (Nasdaq: AMAT). Applied Ventures is taking an equity stake in BT Imaging. The funds will enable BT Imaging to accelerate product development, launch global expansion plans, and strengthen and defend its portfolio.

“Securing additional funding in this challenging economic environment demonstrates investor confidence in BT Imaging’s products and management,” stated Ian Maxwell, CEO of BT Imaging. “Due to the yield and efficiency gains that our products enable, we are experiencing strong demand from manufacturers in multiple segments of the photovoltaic manufacturing industry. This financing provides us with additional R&D and product development capability, putting the company at least a year ahead of its original roadmap. Not only can we enhance our current offerings, we can also provide the photovoltaic industry with new solutions to address critical yield challenges. As the world’s largest supplier of equipment to the PV solar industry, we are very pleased that Applied Materials recognizes the unique strength of BTi’s technologies and its potential for widespread adoption.”

Figure 1. Luminescence is the emission of light caused by an external excitation.

Demand for BT Imaging’s inspection systems has been steadily increasing since the company’s launch in 2008. The company’s inspection and quality control systems are used by Tier 1 wafer and cell manufacturers in Europe, Australia, Taiwan, China, and Japan, with many key customers placing repeat orders. The company’s first product, the LIS-R1, is being used by leading research institutions to qualify new photovoltaic manufacturing processes. In May 2010, BTI debuted a product for qualifying the electrical quality of as-cut wafers in production. The QS-W1, an automated electrical wafer quality sorter, enables photovoltaic manufacturers to sort and reject as-cut wafers based on photovoltaic performance and maximize solar cell yield and efficiency.  Utilizing BTi’s proprietary second-generation patented photoluminescence (PL) imaging technology, the QS-W1 is ten times faster than previous generation systems, enabling inspection at production speeds for the first time. Initially targeting as-cut multi-crystalline silicon photovoltaic wafers, BTi has a roadmap in place to address the needs of mono-crystalline wafers and all photovoltaic cells at various stages of production. The QS-W1 is currently in extensive testing with leading photovoltaic wafer and cell makers.

Figure 2. PL signal is proportional to the product of local minority carrier lifetime and background doping. Local areas with higher carrier recombination are darker.

In the accompanying podcast, McMillan describes the physics behind the company’s imaging technology. Laser light is used to illuminate the sample being inspected (e.g., wafer, block, or cell); this generates carriers that move through the silicon, they recombine, thereby emitting photoluminescence (PL) photons. With sophisticated cameras and filtering, the photons are detected — giving an image of the entire sample — that yields information about the electrical quality of the sample. “Any electrical defects are seen that result in carrier recombination through the entire thickness (of the sample),” McMillan tells PVW.

Figure 3. PL images show features not seen in optical images.

BT Imaging’s suite of inspection systems utilizes the company’s proprietary photoluminescence imaging technology. With applications across the PV manufacturing supply chain, BT Imaging systems enable yield and cell efficiencies gains for PV manufacturing lines. With a focus on enabling customers to maximize their profits and reduce manufacturing cost, BT Imaging systems can be effectively used to predict cell performance, material quality control, identify process and material faults, and for process control and debug.

Podcast with Wayne McMillan, VP, Sales & Marketing at BTi: Download or Play Now

“As the solar industry continues to expand, we see an increasing need to address quality control applications to achieve higher production yields and optimized efficiency,” stated J. Christopher Moran, VP and GM of Applied Ventures. “Our investment in BT Imaging aligns well with Applied Ventures’ strategy of fostering innovative technology to help drive down the cost per watt of solar power.”

BTi will be showing its new module at EU PVSEC in Valencia, Spain this September, along with a new lab tool that enables fast line sampling.

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BT Imaging designs and develops luminescence-imaging systems for the photovoltaic manufacturing industry. www.btimaging.com

Applied Ventures LLC, a subsidiary of Applied Materials Inc., invests in early stage technology companies with the high growth potential that provide a window on technologies that advance or complement Applied Materials’ core expertise. www.appliedventures.com

Allen & Buckeridge (A&B) is an early and expansion stage venture capital firm dedicated to investing in and helping build global companies of significant and lasting value. www.a-b.com.au

Uniseed is a $61 million commercialization fund operating at the University of Queensland, New South Wales and Melbourne. www.uniseed.com

 

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