Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

FP6

SOLARPLAS — Result In Brief

Project ID: 17586
Funded under: FP6-SME
Country: Germany

SMEs get the tools to compete in solar energy market

New technologies promise to slash the price tag of photovoltaic cells. This will benefit consumers as well as smaller players in this competitive global industry.
SMEs get the tools to compete in solar energy market
Europe has set aggressive targets for replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy sources by the year 2020. Several European countries have begun offering financial incentives to power homes and businesses with solar energy. In fact, things are going so well the solar manufacturing industry is finding it hard to keep pace with the increasing demand for photovoltaic (PV) panels.

Smaller companies could be the key to filling this gap. An EU-funded research project aimed to put the latest technology at their disposal to help them to compete with bigger players in the market. The project was titled 'Development of plasma-chemical equipment for cost-effective manufacturing in photovoltaics' (Solarplas).

The objective was to integrate atmospheric pressure plasma (APP) processes into a manufacturing line. APP processing not only promises reduced capital outlay and operating expenses but is also more environmentally friendly.

A number of different APP technologies were investigated. For example, an APP etching technique was used to modify the texture of the PV cell to help capture more light, thus increasing its output. Etching was also used to remove unwanted phosphorus silicate glass (PSG) from the wafer during its formation.

Another important advance involved using plasma-enhanced chemical vapour deposition (PECVD) to deposit a very thin layer of silicon nitride on the PV cell. This significantly reduces reflection and also helps protect the cell itself. Resistance to scratches and other types of damage was also improved by adding a polymer foil.

Finally, in order to make sure that these new technologies can stand up to factory conditions, special power supplies were developed for the plasma source. The Solarplas results will give small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) a leg up on their larger competitors.

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