Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Sunpreme has received a $5 million award from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to develop what the company calls the next generation of high-performance, low-cost photovoltaic manufacturing technology.
Through the SunShot award, Sunpreme says it will develop a new manufacturing toolset and process technology for copper patterning on PV cells by adapting technologies from the ultra-cost-sensitive printed circuit board (PCB) industry.
Though copper electrodes are known to be the best option for high-performance solar cells, only 2% of global PV cells are currently made with copper, due to the complex and costly process needed to pattern it, the company explains.
Conversely, the PCB industry uses patterned copper plating on a massive scale at an ultra-low cost by using alternative techniques for patterning and processing. By leveraging these existing techniques and adapting them to PV cell manufacturing, Sunpreme says it will dramatically cut manufacturing costs and increase cell performance – in turn, making its copper plating practical for mass production of commercial solar cells.
“This SunShot award will allow us, for the first time, to repurpose these hugely valuable PCB and semiconductor manufacturing technologies for solar manufacturing,” said Dr. Farhad Moghadam, chief technology officer of Sunpreme. “Most of the core technologies were originally developed in the U.S. to begin with, and now Sunpreme, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy, will be bringing them back to the U.S. while creating new, high-skill jobs and low-cost clean energy for all Americans.”