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US solar firm works with R&D company to boost PV cell efficiency

First Solar in two-year agreement with Intermolecular to increase CdTe conversion efficiency gains beyond previous target

The US companies aims to improve the conversion efficiency of solar cell technology

A US solar firm is working with a R&D company to further improve the efficiency of its PV cells. Arizona firm First Solar has entered into a two-year collaboration and licensing agreement with California firm Intermolecular to increase the conversion efficiency of its cadmium telluride (CdTe) solar cell technology.

Under the collaborative development program, First Solar and Intermolecular researchers will work together to develop disruptive new approaches to increasing the performance of CdTe solar cell technology using Intermolecular’s proprietary High Productivity Combinatorial (HPC) platform. The program targets substantial gains in First Solar’s module conversion efficiency beyond its previously announced roadmap.

Raffi Garabedian, First Solar’s chief technology officer, said: “We are excited to extend and deepen our collaboration with IMI. The combinatorial approach to material and process screening has shown promise to augment First Solar's already world-leading research and development capabilities in CdTe solar technology, enabling better performance and faster time-to-market.

“This program targets disruptive advances in our module performance which will be additive to our current roadmap, he added. “We are confident this effort will bear fruit in the coming years, combining with our other new R&D advances to extend our leadership in photovoltaic technology and further enhance value for our power plant customers.”

Intermolecular's mission is to improve R&D efficiency in the semiconductor and clean-energy industries through collaborations that use its HPC platform, which allows R&D experimentation to be performed at speeds up to 100 times faster than traditional methods.

The agreement with First Solar follows work the two companies did together in 2012.

Sandeep Nijhawan, vice president and general manager of Intermolecular’s Clean Energy Group, said: “We are excited to partner with First Solar, a global leader in thin-film photovoltaic technology and systems. Extending and expanding the collaboration with First Solar after working closely with them last year represents tremendous validation of our value proposition. We look forward to be closely working with First Solar to further increase CdTe solar cell conversion-efficiency by leveraging our HPC platform and capabilities.”

The news from First Solar is another example of US companies working to increase the efficiency of their PV technology. This includes US solar firm Alta Devices, which achieved 23.5 per cent efficiency of its solar panel technology in February last year. At the time, the company claimed it was the highest solar panel efficiency achieved to date.