NREL Installs iTi Solar Inkjet & Sprayer Systems

iTi Solar announced that the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has installed inkjet and spray workstations supplied by iTi Solar in its advanced Atmospheric Processing Platform, which is located in the Process Development and Integration Laboratory at the National Center for Photovoltaics.

NREL will use the iTi Solar workstations to develop atmospheric processing methods and materials for use in photovoltaic applications. iTi Solar is a division of iTi Corporation.

iTi Solar’s Materials Deposition Systems (MDS), which are being used as part of NREL’s research project, enable digital deposition of a wide range of fluids utilizing inkjet printhead and sprayer technologies. Inkjet technologies offer manufacturing cost efficiencies for silicon-based, thin-film and next generation photovoltaic cells.

Reducing material costs and process inefficiencies through inkjet technology is an important component in NREL’s research project to reduce costs. Inkjet is emerging as a versatile, precise printing method to advance manufacturing processes while lowering substrate, materials and capital costs.

“Inkjet printing is an attractive, viable alternative to many existing deposition approaches and has the potential to produce high-quality solar cells at reduced cost,” said Dr. Maikel van Hest, scientist, NREL. “After a global competition, we selected iTi Solar’s inkjet and sprayer systems.”

Compared with traditional processes of coating, sputtering and etching, inkjet is an additive, direct material deposition process. Drop placement is digitally controlled so that only what is required is precisely deposited. This offers considerable savings in applications utilizing high cost fluids by reducing waste and raw material volumes. Because inkjet deposition is non-contact, there is less damage to materials and therefore a wider range of highly efficient but fragile substrate materials can be utilized in manufacturing.

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