Incremental Improvement to Solar Cell Manufacturing
There are two main ways to make solar PV more affordable. You either figure out a way to make the manufacturing process cheaper (by making it simpler, safer, or by using fewer expensive materials), or you make the solar cells more efficient at converting light into electricity. The Montréal-based company Sixtron Advanced Materials (a spin-off from two Québec universities) claims that its new process to put antireflective coating on crystalline solar cells actually does both things at the same time.
The first benefit of their technology is that solar cell manufacturers would no long have to use saline gas, a common ingredient in the process used to apply the antireflective coating on the cells. This gas is pretty dangerous. It can "ignite when exposed to air; the gas is costly to transport, and silicon cell manufacturers must invest in special storage, ventilation, and other safety measures to prevent accidents."
Sixtron's silane-free process ("a silicon carbide nitride material carrying the trade name Silexium") removes the need for all that extra safety and simplifies things, saving money during manufacturing.
More Efficient Solar Cells
Sixtron claims that there's another benefit to its Silexium coating: It reduces light-induced degradation by up to 88 percent, meaning that the slight drop in efficiency that cells coated with the regular antireflective technology experience after the first 24-48 hours of exposure to sunlight is reduced, making the effective efficiency higher.
Over a solar cell's lifetime, even a small improvement in efficiency can mean a lot more power generated.
The real question is: Will it work as promised in the real world and will solar cell makers adopt the technology?
Via Sixtron, Technology Review
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