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EU and Chinese companies approach US solar firm to test cost-cutting silicon tech

Five firms send samples to Natcore Technology to see if silicon processes can reduce costs of PV products

The five firms have approached Natcore Technology to see if its process technology can cut cost of their PV products

Companies in the EU and China have approached a US solar firm to see if its silicon process technology can cut costs of their PV products. Five solar device manufacturers, including two from China, two from North America and one from Europe have asked US firm Natcore Technology to test its process technology with their PV product samples.

Natcore, which hasn’t revealed the names of the five firms, said they have sent the company sample wafers to try out its latest silicon process technologies. The companies typically use plasma enhanced chemical vapour deposition (PECVD) to deposit films on their products. Natcore said they aim to see if the firm’s black silicon and liquid phase deposition (LPD) processes can help them reduce costs and improve performance of their solar energy products.

The work will be completed using Natcore's AR-Box at the R&D centre in Rochester, New York. AR-Box is Natcore's intelligent processing station that uses the LPD process to grow thin film coatings on various substrates.

The two Chinese manufacturers have asked Natcore to apply its "absolute black" antireflective coating to the sample wafers they have provided. This is Natcore's super low reflectance black silicon with LPD silica passivation technology.

The two North American companies have sent different wafers to process with the company’s black silicon and its LPD surface passivation technology. Others have been sent to sample both processes together.

Meanwhile, the European manufacturer has asked Natcore to process wafers with a very thin LPD silica layer. The thin layer is an integral part of the cell structure the company now has in pilot production. Natcore said successful insertion of the technology will enable a major reduction of cell manufacturing costs.

Natcore's said its proprietary LPD process makes it possible to grow a wide range of inorganic materials, such as silicon dioxide-based films, on a range of substrates at room-temperature in an environmentally friendly chemical bath. This eliminates the need for harsh and expensive CVD methods currently used in the industry.

Chuck Provini, Natcore president and CEO, said: "These companies came to us because they were aware of our successes with LPD and black silicon. If the results are what we anticipate for these tests, these companies would very likely be significant near-term customers for our AR-Box, an LPD license, and the requisite chemicals."
 
“We've been negotiating a number of potential joint ventures in various global markets. Successful commercial tests will strengthen our hand in those negotiations," Provini added.