Compound thin-film solar cell development agreement signed by IBM, DelSolar

DelSolar will jointly develop compound thin film solar cells with IBM, aimed to surpass next-generation thin film solar cell technology and result in commercial production with earth-abundant materials that avoid toxic elements.

(September 27, 2010) — DelSolar Co. Ltd (3599.TW) signed an agreement to jointly develop compound thin film solar cells with IBM (NYSE:IBM), aimed to surpass next-generation thin film solar cell technology and result in commercial production. The collaboration includes leveraging DelSolar’s existing expertise in photovoltaic (PV) technology and process as well as IBM’s advanced semiconductor technology and materials science knowledge.

“This agreement is a step in the effort to create efficient solar cells using earth-abundant materials with novel processes,” said T.C. Chen, VP of science and technology IBM Research. “We already have an excellent collaboration with Tokyo Ohka Kogyo Company LTD. (TOK) for developing manufacturing tooling and the chemistries required for this technology. Recently IBM demonstrated record solar cell efficiencies using a copper zinc tin sulfur selenide (CZTS) material. This new collaboration between DelSolar, TOK, and IBM now puts us firmly on the path to commercially viable technologies and processes for solar cells that could bring us closer to grid parity.”

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Yoichi Nakamura, president and CEO of TOK said, “We are excited to have DelSolar join our joint development program with IBM. I believe CZTS-based solar cells are a promising technology that can help ensure stable cost and a shorter path to grid parity. Working with DelSolar, who has a strong PV and power management background, we have much greater capability to release this important technology to the market.”

With the benefit of non-toxic and earth-abundant components this technology can also offer the benefits of broader spectrum sensitivity, lower working irradiance, broader temperature latitude and significantly higher net power output. The light absorbing properties can also be fine-tuned by modifying the composition of the photovoltaic conversion layers. Light in weight, the new cell will also be flexible when used with a flexible base material. A diverse range of applications for the new cell can potentially include: vaulted roof tops, curved glass curtain walls, other non-flat building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) applications, or even extended applications such as curtains, shutters, chargers on clothing, and consumer electronics.

Thin film solar cell technologies have been based upon amorphous silicon (aSi), CdTe, and CIGS. This new technology is based upon inexpensive, earth-abundant components, thereby circumventing the need for toxic cadmium, or materials whose availability may be questionable for the large volume growths anticipated in the future (indium or tellurium), say the collaborating companies.

Until now, DelSolar has not engaged in thin film solar cell manufacturing partly because most of the commercially available technologies are of low efficiency or contain expensive materials or elements of limited projected availability, said the company. In addition, most of the current compound thin film solar cells on the market still use cadmium as the photovoltaic conversion layer or buffer layer.

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