Alliance established to develop high efficiency, low cost solar cells

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Dow Corning, has signed a three year contract with imec to perform joint research on next generations of crystalline silicon solar cells.

With its silicon solar cell industrial affiliation programme (IIAP), imec aims to create innovative processes to fabricate the next generations of silicon solar cells. The R&D programme concentrates on sharply reducing silicon use, whilst at the same time increasing efficiency of solar cells. This could substantially lower the cost for solar energy. The collaboration between Dow Corning and imec will focus on topics where Dow Corning's advanced materials can bring enabling solutions for the processing and interconnection of future solar cells. An example is a silicone encapsulant process for integrated cell and module processing. Due to the use of very thin and large wafers, cell processing and module assembly become increasingly challenging. Imec and Dow Corning plan to combine new cell structures with novel silicone encapsulant processes with a goal of producing cost effective modules with ultra-thin cells. Imec Energy's programme director, Jef Poortmans (pictured) believes the collaboration will benefit the research by providing access to the latest innovations in materials. Poortmans said: "By bringing together all the different players in the silicon solar cell value chain, ranging from energy companies, solar cell manufacturers to material and equipment suppliers, we can speed up the development of new processes which are tested on a semi-industrial pilot line. As such we accelerate the transfer to mass production." Eric Peeters, vice president, Dow Corning Solar Business, added: "It is all about commercialising new technologies that will make solar panels more efficient and more durable, leading to a significant reduction of the cost per kWh of energy generated with photovoltaics. Dow Corning strongly believes in imec's approach to bring world leaders across the value chain together to work synergistically and make step-change innovation a reality."