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US lab to develop copper silicon solar cells to cut costs

Natcore to reduce solar cells costs by switching from precious metals to copper

Copper could lower the cost and increase the output of solar cells

A US laboratory is set to cut costs in PV production after gaining an exclusive patent to develop and commercialise black silicon solar cells using copper. Natcore Technology scientists will advance a series of black silicon products under the license extension that covers diffused emitters with liquid phase passivation.

The licence patent that was granted from the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) enables Natcore to build cheaper solar cells by swopping gold or silver nanoparticles in the etching process for copper. Natcore said a black silicon solar panel using this method could produce a significantly higher amount of energy compared to the cells using industry standard thin film coating.

Natcore president and CEO Chuck Provini, said: “Because copper is less expensive than the precious metals, this new patent could enable Natcore to further reduce the cost of solar cells. This could be another step toward our goal of halving the cost and increasing the output of solar cells.”
 
The news comes after US firm Lux Research informed last month that the use of copper in solar technologies could slash production costs up to 50 per cent and improve yields.