New flexible solar cell technology in development


QDOTS imagesCAKXSY1K 8US-based Natcore Technology with research partner Rice University has developed what it describes as an inorganic flexible thin film solar cell by solution processes.

The production process for the cells has the potential to move to a roll-to-roll manufacturing lineThe device was made using Natcore’s liquid phase deposition (LPD) process. A cadmium/selenium (CdSe) absorber layer was grown onto a back contact substrate based on single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWNT). LPD was also used to grow a copper/selenium (CuSe) window layer onto which silver contacts were deposited. The resulting solar device shows potential for this process to make a flexible solar cell, free of high temperature semiconductor processing.

With further work the process has potential for roll-to-roll (R2R) production. The company’s R&D centre is situated near a former Kodak R2R photo film plant in Rochester, New York state.

Black silicon

A few years ago Natcore Technologies began attracting interest for its LPD technology in an application for improving the light absorption properties of multi-crystalline silicon cells, known as black silicon solar cells. LPD, developed at Rice University, makes it possible to grow a wide range of inorganic materials on a range of substrates using a room-temperature, environmentally friendly chemical bath.

In the flexible solar cell work nanotubes were used for a back contact embedded into the absorber layer, reducing the diffusion length to the back contact, to potentially lead to higher efficiency, because of a lower percentage of hole electron recombination.

There is potential to make the development compatible with the company’s multi-junction tandem solar cell technology to enable high efficiency extremely thin and flexible solar cells.

Other companies bringing to market high efficiency flexible thin film solar cells include Alta Devices, which has developed a process of growing very thin layers of solar cell materials on gallium arsenide (GaAs) wafers. The California-based company has been working on a GaAs solar cell technology for military and other applications, targeting the commercial unmanned aerial vehicle (UAE) market where very lightweight and efficient solar cells on the wings of craft can extend flight times without adding extra weight.

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NRL Designs Multi-Junction Solar Cell to Break Efficiency Barrier


QDOTS imagesCAKXSY1K 8U.S. Naval Research Laboratory scientists in the Electronics Technology and Science Division, in collaboration with the Imperial College London and MicroLink Devices, Inc., Niles, Ill., have proposed a novel triple-junction solar cell with the potential to break the 50 percent conversion efficiency barrier, which is the current goal in multi-junction photovoltaic development.

 

04-13R_multijunction_solar_cell_372x328Schematic diagram of a multi-junction (MJ) solar cell formed from materials lattice-matched to InP and achieving the bandgaps for maximum efficiency. (Photo: U.S. Naval Research Laboratory)

“This research has produced a novel, realistically achievable, lattice-matched, multi-junction solar cell design with the potential to break the 50 percent power conversion efficiency mark under concentrated illumination,” said Robert Walters, Ph.D., NRL research physicist. “At present, the world record triple-junction solar cell efficiency is 44 percent under concentration and it is generally accepted that a major technology breakthrough will be required for the efficiency of these cells to increase much further.”

In multi-junction (MJ) solar cells, each junction is ‘tuned’ to different wavelength bands in the solar spectrum to increase efficiency. High bandgap semiconductor material is used to absorb the short wavelength radiation with longer wavelength parts transmitted to subsequent semiconductors. In theory, an infinite-junction cell could obtain a maximum power conversion percentage of nearly 87 percent. The challenge is to develop a semiconductor material system that can attain a wide range of bandgaps and be grown with high crystalline quality.

By exploring novel semiconductor materials and applying band structure engineering, via strain-balanced quantum wells, the NRL research team has produced a design for a MJ solar cell that can achieve direct band gaps from 0.7 to 1.8 electron volts (eV) with materials that are all lattice-matched to an indium phosphide (InP) substrate.

“Having all lattice-matched materials with this wide range of band gaps is the key to breaking the current world record” adds Walters. “It is well known that materials lattice-matched to InP can achieve band gaps of about 1.4 eV and below, but no ternary alloy semiconductors exist with a higher direct band-gap.”

The primary innovation enabling this new path to high efficiency is the identification of InAlAsSb quaternary alloys as a high band gap material layer that can be grown lattice-matched to InP. Drawing from their experience with Sb-based compounds for detector and laser applications, NRL scientists modeled the band structure of InAlAsSb and showed that this material could potentially achieve a direct band-gap as high as 1.8eV. With this result, and using a model that includes both radiative and non-radiative recombination, the NRL scientists created a solar cell design that is a potential route to over 50 percent power conversion efficiency under concentrated solar illumination.

Recently awarded a U.S. Department of Energy (DoE), Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) project, NRL scientists, working with MicroLink and Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, N.Y., will execute a three year materials and device development program to realize this new solar cell technology.

Through a highly competitive, peer-reviewed proposal process, ARPA-E seeks out transformational, breakthrough technologies that show fundamental technical promise but are too early for private-sector investment. These projects have the potential to produce game-changing breakthroughs in energy technology, form the foundation for entirely new industries, and to have large commercial impacts.

Natcore’s Black Silicon Highlighted at Bright Lights Conference


“Game-Changing Technology” Cited as
Reason for Invitation.

Red Bank, NJ – (October 1, 2012) –Natcore Technology Inc. (TSX-V: NXT; NTCXF.PK was recently a featured presenter at the prestigious Bright Lights Conference, Wall Street’s only disruptive technology conference, which focuses exclusively on companies the sponsor believes can transform their industries with game-changing technology.

Natcore was selected as one of 30 public and private companies to present at this invitation-only event. Aimed at making solar power cost-competitive with power generated using fossil fuels, Natcore’s technologies produce solar cells by growing thin film anti-reflective coatings on silicon substrates in a liquid bath at ambient pressures. Natcore believes these cells will be less expensive, more productive, and less environmentally harmful than cells produced using standard industry processes.

Natcore’s presentation centered on the company’s black silicon and tandem solar cell technologies. The conference was attended by institutional and private investors with interest in technology sectors ranging from clean energy to enterprise software to healthcare

“This was the second time in recent months that respected observers have called our technology ‘game-changing,'” says Chuck Provini, Natcore president and CEO. “Lux Research used the same language in a research report.”

The Bright Lights conference is sponsored by MDB Capital Group, an investment banking and institutional research firm focused exclusively on companies possessing or seeking to develop market changing, disruptive technologies and intellectual property. This was their third annual conference.

Natcore Technology is the exclusive licensee, from Rice University, of a remarkable new thin-film growth technology. Although the implications of this discovery for semiconductors and fiber optics are significant and wide-ranging, our technology has two immediate and compelling applications in the solar sector:

  • It could enable silicon solar cell manufacturers to reduce silicon usage by over 60%— thereby dramatically decreasing costs, improving profit margins and boosting throughput.
  • Most importantly, it promises to allow, for the first time, mass manufacturing of super-efficient (30%+) tandem solar cells with double the power output of today’s most efficient devices. Projections show our process has the potential to allow these solar cells to be manufactured at a lower cost than anything currently commercially available.

 

Making Solar Energy Economically Viable

Advocates of alternative energy face an inconvenient, but incontrovertible, fact:

It takes hugely rich government subsidies to make 
solar energy cost-competitive with conventional power.

Most people believe it’s going to be that way for many years to come. We think they’re going to be proven wrong.

That’s because we control a remarkable new thin-film growth process that could completely change the way solar cells are manufactured.

We’re replacing the traditional thermal vacuum processes, such as CVD and PECVD (chemical vapor deposition, plasma enhanced chemical vapor deposition, etc.) for making solar cells with our liquid phase deposition (LPD) wet chemistry process.

We think LPD is the future of solar. It is at the core of everything we do. It results in solar cells of higher quality, and is safer, cleaner and less expensive than CVD. That’s why we’re using multiple LPD-based applications to make solar power cost-competitive with conventional power.

 

David Levy Joins Natcore Technology

As Director of Research & Technology

Red Bank, NJ — (September 6, 2012) — Dr. David H. Levy, the recipient of a PhD in Chemical Engineering from MIT who invented the atmospheric Spatial Atomic Layer Deposition process (SALD), has joined Natcore Technology Inc. (TSX-V: NXT; NTCXF.PK) as Director of Research & Technology.

 

Natcore Technology Closes $2.5 Million Non-Brokered Private Placement

Red Bank, NJ — (July 20, 2012) —Natcore Technology Inc. (TSX-V: NXT; NTCXF.PK) has today completed a C$2.5 million private placement. The funds will be used to complete optimization of the company’s promising black silicon technology and to build a production version of Natcore’s AR-Box™ processing station. This version would be capable of etching and coating cells with black silicon at a rate of 1,500 to 2,000 cells per hour.

Natcore Technology is the exclusive licensee, from Rice University, of a remarkable new thin-film growth technology. Although the implications of this discovery for semiconductors and fiber optics are significant and wide-ranging, our technology has two immediate and compelling applications in the solar sector:

  • It could enable silicon solar cell manufacturers to reduce silicon usage by over 60%— thereby dramatically decreasing costs, improving profit margins and boosting throughput.
  • Most importantly, it promises to allow, for the first time, mass manufacturing of super-efficient (30%+) tandem solar cells with double the power output of today’s most efficient devices. Projections show our process has the potential to allow these solar cells to be manufactured at a lower cost than anything currently commercially available.

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Statements in this press release other than purely historical factual information, including statements relating to revenues or profits, or Natcore’s future plans and objectives, or expected sales, cash flows, and capital expenditures constitute forward-looking statements. Forward-looking statements are based on numerous assumptions and are subject to all of the risks and uncertainties inherent in Natcore’s business, including risks inherent in the technology history. There can be no assurance that such forward-looking statements will prove to be accurate, as actual results and future events could differ materially from those anticipated in such statements. Accordingly, readers should not place undue reliance on such statements. Except in accordance with applicable securities laws, Natcore expressly disclaims any obligation to update any forward-looking statements or forward-looking statements that are incorporated by reference herein.

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