Natcore Reaches 17.5% Efficiency With All-Back-Contact Solar Cells


Natcore Technology Inc. says researchers at its Rochester, N.Y., facilities have achieved commercial-level efficiencies for its laser-processed solar cells.

The technology company notes refinement of its all-back-contact silicon cell structure, which utilizes aluminum instead of silver, has progressed rapidly. Less than 11 months ago, early proof-of-concept cells were delivering 4% efficiencies. Today, Natcore says the cells have reached efficiencies of 17.5%, roughly equivalent to typical commercial cells currently being sold.

According to the company, its cell design is producing short-circuit currents above 40 mA/cm2 and open-circuit voltages above 0.65 V. Natcore says expected improvements in these measurements, as well as fill factor, could lead to efficiencies well above 20%. The company explains that its new design builds upon the basic concept of a silicon heterojunction (SHJ) solar cell, and Panasonic Corp. holds the current world record efficiency for an SHJ cell at 25.6%.

Natcore claims its laser-processed, all-back-contact solar cell technology will accelerate the introduction of a new generation of solar panels that will be more efficient and less expensive than current panels. The company says part of the output gain will come from eliminating the reflecting metal contact strips on the top of the cell, thereby increasing the amount of light absorbed by the panel, and part of it will come from reducing cell-to-module losses. The panel cost-reduction will come partly from replacing the cost of silver with the cost of aluminum and partly from the reduced handling needed for an all-back-contact panel assembly compared to a standard panel, Natcore adds.

To quantify these cost advantages for potential partners, the technology company has retained an independent laboratory to prepare an analysis comparing the cost of producing solar cells using Natcore’s process with that of making cells using existing manufacturing methods.

“Many companies are producing cells with efficiencies at the levels we’ve so far achieved,” says Dr. David Levy, Natcore’s director of research and technology. “But cells made using our technology will ultimately be much more efficient and far less expensive to produce, which will equate to very significant cost/watt improvements.”

Chuck Provini, Natcore’s president and CEO, adds, “We have reached performance goals that make us ready to present our case to large manufacturers whose scale and resources can help us reach the ultimate, ultra-high-efficiency potential that our cells are capable of.”

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