IMEC, Kaneka eye 20%-efficient a-Si cells

IMEC and Kaneka are joining forces to incorporate the Japanese firm’s thin-film PV activities at IMEC’s facilities in Leuven, Belgium, to create a hybrid PV cell with >20% conversion efficiency.

September 17, 2009 – IMEC and Kaneka are joining forces to incorporate the Japanese firm’s thin-film PV activities at IMEC’s facilities in Leuven, Belgium, to create a hybrid PV cell with >20% conversion efficiency.

The Japanese company will invest ¥1.5B (US ~$16.5M) to establish the new center, staffed by ~10 researchers from both sides, to study areas including single-crystal silicon (e.g., surface treatment) and introducing IMEC’s optical and interface-property control technologies and semiconductor process technology.

The goal of the combined efforts is to create an a-Si:H heterojunction-based high-efficiency solar cell, a hybrid of IMEC’s thin-crystal polysilicon solar cells and Kaneka’s thin-film Si fabrication, with >20% conversion efficiency — hoping to be more competitive with rivals Sanyo Electric and SunPower, notes the Nikkei Business Daily. Kaneka has achieved 12% efficiency with its thin-film silicon hybrid technology alone, with 13.4% initial conversion efficiency (910mm×455mm size) at the research level in single-junction and dual-junction (tandem) solar cells.

Pairing with IMEC also has strategic benefits for Kaneka, which plans to expand its solar cell manufacturing capacity to 1GW by 2015, and needs a presence (and eventually production facilities) close to the key European market. “IMEC was chosen as the preferred R&D partner because of its longstanding expertise and excellent track-record in photovoltaics, and because of its unique knowledge and capabilities in materials processing and photonics,” said Kaneka president Kimikazu Sugawara, in a statement. It’s also the first nondomestic R&D lab for any Japanese solar cell manufacturer, noted IMEC in a statement.

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