Strong demand for double print technology
06 May 2010
Applied Materials' Esatto Technology, a multi-step printing capability for its Baccini back-end solar cell processing systems, has demonstrated 0.46% absolute cell efficiency gains at customer sites (photo courtesy of Business Wire)
Applied Materials has announced that it expects its Esatto Technology to be used in more than 2 gigawatts of annual cell manufacturing capacity in the next few months at customer sites in China, Taiwan and Europe.
According to the company, customers have demonstrated 0.46% absolute cell efficiency gains with Esatto Technology, and up to a 14% reduction in consumption of silver printing paste.
This combination of higher efficiency and reduced material expense is projected to lower manufacturing cost by over 3 cents-per-watt, and deliver a return on investment in as little as eight months.
Esatto Technology is a high precision, multi-step printing capability for Applied’s Baccini back-end solar cell processing systems. This production-proven screen printing technology is used to fabricate advanced contact structures in crystalline silicon (c-Si) solar photovoltaic (PV) cells.
c-Si PV cells deliver the highest efficiencies of any type of solar cell, with leading cells having efficiencies of over 20% in production. Now, approximately 80% of PV solar panels produced are based on c-Si technology that has shown excellent long-term reliability and performance over several decades of use. c-Si solar cells are made from silicon ‘wafers,’ which may have either single-crystalline (also called mono-crystalline) or multi-crystalline (also called poly-crystalline) molecular structures. The solar cell is made by adding electrically conductive elements to the silicon wafer (‘doping’) and coating with thin layers of specialised materials. Because the silicon wafer is a large part of the cost, it is critical to reduce the amount of silicon by using thinner wafers to drive down cost per watt.
Applied’s ExpertConnect, a remote access service solution, will soon be available for c-Si solar customers. This technology, which has helped semiconductor service customers reduce system downtime by over 20%, uses a structured escalation methodology and a database to improve system availability.
Key to Applied’s Esatto Technology is its proprietary illumination and pattern recognition system, which provides the critical accuracy and repeatability to enable precise alignment between multiple screen-printed layers. In a study at Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute, Esatto Technology for double-printed front contacts enabled out-of-the-box improvements in absolute cell efficiency and printing paste consumption. Applied’s Esatto Technology also offers cell manufacturers a simple path to upgrade their Baccini lines to implement selective emitter structures, which are low-resistivity regions beneath the contacts. By creating these structures, customers can harvest more of the light spectrum and boost cell efficiency even further.
“Our Esatto Technology demonstrates Applied’s ability to overcome the challenges in integrating new cell technologies and to provide easy-to-implement, cost-effective solutions to our customers,” said Davide Spotti, Vice President and General Manager of Applied’s Baccini Cell Systems division. “We’re seeing an enthusiastic response from cell makers because they can drive their efficiency roadmaps using their existing production equipment and process flows.”
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