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First Solar, Intermolecular to codevelop its next-gen thin-film solar technology

Manufacturing at a First Solar facilityThe battle for the best solar photovoltaics is dominated by many factors, but chief among them are efficiency and cost efficiency. To speed development of First Solar’s next generations of more efficient thin-film cadmium telluride (CdTe)-based PV, the company recently renewed and extended its partnership with Intermolecular Inc., a company focussed on clean energy and semiconductor research and development.

"We are excited to extend and deepen our collaboration with IMI. The combinatorial approach to material and process screening has shown promise to augment First Solar's already world-leading research and development capabilities in CdTe solar technology, enabling better performance and faster time-to-market" said First Solar's Chief Technology Officer Raffi Garabedian. "This program targets disruptive advances in our module performance which will be additive to our current roadmap. We are confident this effort will bear fruit in the coming years, combining with our other new R&D advances to extend our leadership in photovoltaic technology and further enhance value for our power plant customers."

First Solar will use Intermolecular’s technology to help it expand its current efficiency roadmap beyond it’s current roadmap. “We haven’t disclosed specific targets. Our current roadmap reaches 15 efficient, and this research targets improvements beyond that,” said spokesperson Ted Meyer.

Under the agreement, First solar will use Intermolecular's High Productivity Combinatorial (HPC) platform to do real, physical testing of First Solar devices aimed at developing more efficient PV devices, according to Meyer. “We are looking to incorporate new elements into our CdTe technology platform,” he said.

First Solar is the leading CdTe PV company in the world and one of the biggest PV module manufacturers in the world. But its technology, while inexpensive compared to some others, is less efficient at converting sunlight to electricity than crystallin silicon-based PV. Silicon modules have already passed the 20 percent efficiency mark and to keep competitive the company needs to put for higher efficiency modules as well.

The agreement is a two-year expansion of a previous one-year agreement between the two companies. Under the new collaborative program, First Solar and Intermolecular researchers will develop disruptive new approaches to increasing the performance of CdTe solar cell technology at a more rapid pace. Intermolecular said its HPC platform can provide experimentation at speeds up to 100 times faster than traditional methods.

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