Natcore's technology may lower costs for solar

One of the hot new terms in solar is liquid deposition. This is because efforts to create room-temperature liquid deposition for photovoltaic materials and components promise to reduce the energy and toxic materials needed to develop PV modules and to reduce the costs of making PV materials. One such example of this is the work being done at Natcore Technology Inc.

Natcore is developing a liquid phase deposition process for an anti-reflective PV coating that would eliminate the need for applying such a coating through an expensive, energy-intensive process, wherein the coating material is bonded onto the PV materials at high temperatures in controlled environments like vacuums. And the process could be adapted to existing PV manufacturing processes.

“Liquid phase deposition is a chemical bonding, done at room temperature, with chemicals right off the shelf,” said Natcore Senior Vice President Tom Scarpa. “The process eliminates the cost of buying and running a vacuum furnace and makes panels possible with less poly-silicon.” Toxic emissions from the chemicals used in Natcore’s process are much less than with vacuum-furnace based bonding for such materials.

In addition, applying the materials and curing them at room temperature helps reduce the amount of silicon needed in crystalline silicon cells and can be used in thin-film and flexible PV applications, Scarpa said.

While the process won’t make most silicon cells more powerful than other passivated coatings, it will rival existing coating efficiencies, he said, but by reducing the need for expensive equipment and excess energy usage, such a coating will help reduce the cost of producing PV products.

The process also is being used in the development of Natcore’s Tandem solar cell, a multilayered PV cell, which will actually consist of three layers of PV materials.

Each layer will produce electricity from different spectrums of light.

“The liquid deposition and passivation process make this tandem cell possible,” said Scarpa. He said that the cell would be between 30 and 35 percent efficient at converting sunlight into electricity.

“But that research is about 18 months away from commercial release,” he said.

The technology could come to market sooner, but he didn’t want over-promise on the timeline.

“We’re testing on it and working on it every day.” he said.