Natcore Technology is developing laser processing to replace the high-temperature diffusion furnace in the solar cell production process in an attempt to reduce energy and chemical costs associated with the furnace. The company says it is acquiring a laser to install at its research and development center in Rochester, N.Y.
Laser doping works by firing a focused laser beam on the wafer, the company says. A small amount of dopant is initially sitting on the surface. The laser beam melts the silicon, which then re-solidifies. The microsecond process is enough time to accomplish the doping, Natcore says.
Because the laser delivers energy to a very localized area, it would heat only that portion of the wafer that needs to be heated and can lead to more efficient solar cells, the company says. Furthermore, a laser would reduce the amount of energy required to produce solar cells because it would no longer be necessary to heat the whole cell and the furnace around it.
‘We are reinventing the way that solar cells are made,’ says Chuck Provini, Natcore's president and CEO. ‘We are streamlining the process by removing costly steps and by eliminating dangerous and expensive chemicals, like silane and phosphorous oxychloride. We are making it a low-temperature process. Although we can't quantify it yet, we believe the result will be lower cost, higher efficiency and better quality. We believe that's what our licensees will want.’