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13 September 2006


HelioVolt and NREL extend CRADA to develop non-vacuum deposition for CIGS thin-film PVs

Building on more than two years of collaboration with the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) of Golden, CO, USA, HelioVolt Corp of Austin, TX, USA is extending the Cooperative Research and Development
Agreement (CRADA) for research carried out at NREL's facilities to include the development of non-vacuum nanomaterial-based deposition processes optimized for HelioVolt's proprietary FASST manufacturing technology, which is claimed to be the fastest and most efficient way to manufacture thin-film copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS) photovoltaics.

HelioVolt says it is enabling new paths to solar energy marketability by building on its knowledge of the unique characteristics of the CIGS material system. When made under the proper conditions, CIGS spontaneously arranges
itself at the nanoscale to create a percolation network that drastically reduces losses, making the material the most efficient and reliable thin-film for photovoltaics, says HelioVolt's founder, Dr B J Stanbery. By taking maximum advantage of this, HelioVolt's flexible FASST process can be
used under both vacuum and atmospheric conditions to print photovoltaic material directly onto traditional construction materials, including architectural glass, steel, roofing and polymers in 80-98% less time than conventional processes, it is claimed. Under the terms of the CRADA, HelioVolt will work with NREL to optimize both conventional vacuum and pioneering non-vacuum deposition processes for FASST manufacturing environments.

"Our collaborative efforts with NREL over the years have formed the groundwork for a viable new solar paradigm: large-scale production of building materials that are durable, versatile, visually appealing and capable of economically harvesting energy from the sun," said Stanbery. "NREL's expertise in preparing nanotechnology precursors is the ideal complement to our own highly efficient process for converting those nanoscale building blocks into finished CIGS thin-film material under both
vacuum and atmospheric conditions."

"As the Department of Energy's laboratory for advancing renewable energy, NREL is committed to growing the value and accessibility of solar technology for the mainstream electricity market," said John Benner, Electronic Materials Group Manager at NREL's National Center for Photovoltaics. "Our initial collaboration with HelioVolt indicates that FASST enables improved manufacturing time and process flexibility, and our extended CRADA will help drive those promising results forward to commercial production."

The vacuum deposition required in conventional thin-film production can be capital intensive. Depositing CIGS films in particular on large areas with the precision necessary to achieve both high performance and low manufacturing costs can be very difficult. Non-vacuum or atmospheric
deposition processes can offer a combination of lower costs, process simplicity and reduced manufacturing times while still resulting in high-quality films. The FASST manufacturing process is flexible and highly controllable and is thus capable of being optimized to produce high-quality thin-film through both atmospheric and vacuum techniques, claims HelioVolt.

Visit: http://www.heliovolt.com