Tokyo, Japan [RenewableEnergyAccess.com] JFE Steel Corporation has succeeded in manufacturing silicon feedstock used in ingot wafers for solar cells. The company has started construction of a commercial plant with capacity of 100 tons/year and has also begun designing a plant to mass-produce the material, which is critical to approximately 90 percent of the global solar industries.JFE Steel began using a proprietary unidirectional solidification process to produce silicon ingots in 2001 and has since become one of the world’s leading ingot manufacturers in terms of production volume. To stabilize increasingly tight supplies of feedstock, it began to investigate techniques for producing SOG silicon in-house from metallic silicon, thereby providing an alternative to polysilicon. Prototypes created with 100% metallic silicon have achieved the same high conversion efficiency as conventional polysilicon units, leading to the startup in October of a commercial plant with capacity of 100 tons/year. JFE Steel has also begun designing a mass production plant. The manufacturing technology used in the commercial plant is the result of a research and development project commissioned by the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO), and conducted until 2001. JFE Steel improved on this technology and boosted its refining capacity so as to meet increasingly demanding quality requirements. JFE Steel will use the new technology and increased capacity to provide stable supplies of high-performance, high-quality polycrystal silicon ingot wafers.