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DelSolar Co Ltd of Hsinchu Science-Based Industrial Park, Taiwan (a subsidiary of Delta Electronics) has signed an agreement with IBM Corp of Yorktown Heights, NY, USA to jointly develop compound semiconductor thin-film photovoltaic cells. The collaboration includes leveraging DelSolar’s existing expertise in photovoltaic technology and processing as well as IBM's semiconductor technology and materials science know-how.
“This agreement is a significant step in the progress of our effort to create efficient solar cells using earth-abundant materials with novel processes,” says T.C. Chen, VP of Science and Technology at IBM Research. “We already have an excellent collaboration with Tokyo Ohka Kogyo Company Ltd [TOK] for developing manufacturing tooling and the chemistries required for this technology,” he adds. “Recently, IBM demonstrated record solar cell efficiencies using a copper zinc tin sulfur selenide (CZTS) material. This new collaboration between DelSolar, TOK, and IBM now puts us firmly on the path to commercially viable technologies and processes for solar cells that could bring us closer to grid parity.”
Existing thin-film solar cell technologies are based earlier on amorphous silicon, cadmium telluride (CdTe) and copper indium gallium diselenide (CIGS). DelSolar says that it has not engaged in thin-film solar cell manufacturing until now partly because most of the commercially available technologies are of low efficiency or contain expensive materials or elements of limited projected availability. In addition, most existing compound semiconductor thin-film solar cells on the market still use cadmium as the photovoltaic conversion layer or buffer layer. In contrast, the new CZTS technology is based on inexpensive, earth-abundant components, circumventing the need for cadmium (which is toxic) or materials such as indium or tellurium (whose availability may be questionable for the high volume growth anticipated in the future).
“CZTS-based solar cells are a promising technology that can help ensure stable cost and a shorter path to grid parity,” believes TOK’s president & CEO Yoichi Nakamura. “Working with DelSolar, who has a strong PV and power management background, we have much greater capability to release this important technology to the market,” he adds.
“DelSolar is pleased to combine forces with IBM and TOK for the joint-development of the game-changing technologies to enable grid-parity PV products,” says DelSolar’s chairman & CEO R.C. Liang. “We have confidence to achieve the agreed upon target by combining the complementary technical skills and synergies that exist among all three companies.”
With the benefit of non-toxic and earth-abundant components the technology can also offer the benefits of broader spectrum sensitivity, lower working irradiance, broader temperature latitude and significantly higher net power output, it is reckoned. The light-absorbing properties can also be fine-tuned by modifying the composition of the photovoltaic conversion layers. Light in weight, the new cell will also be flexible when used with a flexible base material. A diverse range of applications for the new cell could include vaulted roof tops, curved glass curtain walls, other non-flat BIPV applications, or even extended applications such as curtains, shutters, chargers on clothing, and consumer electronics, the firms claim.
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