Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Fabricating high efficiency silicon solar cells

The development of stand-alone power generation, not connected to the grid, is essential for improving the quality of life in rural and remote communities. Dependable, cost-effective and environmentally benign power supplies are needed for applications such as supplying water and powering remote industries, hospitals or factories. Photovoltaic (PV) cells are increasingly becoming an effective and efficient option for power in remote and rural areas with high levels of insolation. Furthermore, if PV cells can be integrated into buildings as part of a grid connected application, this will increase sales and encourage cost reductions in the technology.

A number of major PV research and manufacturing companies worked together to identify ways to improve the cost effectiveness of monocrystalline silicon solar cells. The improvements included increases in efficiency and reductions in cell thickness. These advances have helped to put the European PV industry at the forefront of solar cell technology.

The first goal of the project was to increase efficiency in seven different types of monocrystalline silicon solar cells. Researchers sought to increase efficiency regardless of cost constraints, in order to identify factors limiting further increases in efficiency. However, the highest levels of efficiency are often too expensive. As a second goal, the researchers therefore sought to identify processes that provided a reasonable trade-off between complexity and efficiency.

Some very ambitious targets for efficiency levels were set. These targets were achieved in most cases, or were very close to being achieved. For example, a process was developed to manufacture large monocrystalline cells based on screen printing. This resulted in the production of solar cells with 17.3% efficiency, against a target of 18%. Another important achievement was the development of low cost concentration cells based on the one sun commercial LGBG type cells investigated. These have permitted the development of a PV concentrator module that is now in the demonstration stage, and is expected to lead to significant cost reductions. The improvements in efficiency levels represent a huge success: at the start of the project, the European crystalline silicon solar cell industry lagged behind its American and Japanese rivals. The results from this project have helped the industry in Europe to bridge that technology gap.

Reported by

Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (UPM)
Ciudad Universitaria
28040 Madr Madrid
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