European Venture Focuses on Ribbon-Growth Solar

The Energy research Center of the Netherlands (ECN), Deutsche Solar and Sunergy Investco have joined forces in RGS Development BV to contribute to the development of the next generation in solar electricity technology. The new company will develop a facility to produce silicon wafers in large quantities for the production of solar modules.

The technology that will be used is a process where molten silicon is cast by a frame on a reusable conveyor belt. This technology, called Ribbon-Growth-on-Substrate (RGS), was originally developed and patented by Bayer AG in Germany. A reusable substrate is transported under the casting frame, on which the silicon solidifies as a thin foil. In contrast with conventional production methods where the silicon slices are cut from large silicon blocks, the RGS technology largely reduces the silicon material loss in the wafer fabrication step. Through this, the elimination of the sawing, and the high throughput of the process, the wafer manufacturing costs will be significantly lowered. In contrast to conventional production methods, in which the silicon is sawn into slices, the RGS method conserves the costly silicon in a very efficient manner. Further advantages of the new method are the low production costs (no losses or costs for sawing) and a very high production speed. The RGS process is demonstrated on two test-units that were built by Bayer AG and are now in use by ECN to improve the casting process and the wafer quality. The design of the first full continuously operated RGS machine has been finished and machine building has started. The U.S.-based solar photovoltaic manufacturer Evergreen Solar, based in Marlborough, Massachusetts, also uses a similar ribbon growth process in production.
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