XsunX is combining its thin-film photovoltaic (TFPV) process knowledge and processes with magnetic media thin-film manufacturing technologies used by the hard disc drive industry to mass produce high efficiency, low cost solar cells. Current techniques for the production of CIGS thin-films do not leverage stationary small area, high rate, production technologies which allow for the precise control of thin-film properties.
Interview - Using Hard Disk Technology to Manufacture Solar Cells
Tom Djokovich | XsunX, Inc
Why did you recently change your business model?
Current techniques for the production of CIGS thin-films do not leverage stationary small area, high rate, production technologies which allow for the precise control of thin-film properties. What makes our approach unique is the size of the solar cell. Unlike traditional manufacturing methods that scale the size of the deposition areas to several meters, our approach keeps the size of the solar cell small, initially about 5 inch by five inch wafers. We believe this will reduce the amount of processing defects which can lead to better cell performance while at the same time introduce a manufacturing method that can compensate for the individual small-area wafer processing with high throughput manufacturing techniques. Hard disk drive manufacturing equipment will allow us to keep the processing area small, as it’s already calibrated to the sizes we need.
Our chief technology officer, Mr. Robert Wendt, has more than 15 years experience in thin-film solar technologies and has worked with NREL researchers developing and testing different CIGS deposition methods. The combination of these two industries is currently being developed by Mr. Wendt who has mapped out a several stage process. For example, in September XsunX announced their goal was to begin testing the design of a thermal evaporation source for its suitability in manufacturing the core CIGS sun absorber. In October, we achieved that goal and had begun evaporating metal, analyzing results, and establishing deposition rates for both the evaporation source and sputtering tools. There are a number layers to the CIGS structure and for the next several months our work effort will be to analyze results and refine designs, with the goal of combining these designs within a tool set and the ability to deposit CIGS devices.
Using sputtering technologies alone, it is possible to manufacture all of the layers necessary to make a CIGS device. However, industry research has shown that sputtering alone has not achieved the same efficiency milestones that have been achieved when sputtering is used in combination with evaporation techniques to make the CIGS device. Evaporation requires less processing time and in the long run provides a more efficient use of less costly materials.
The difference in efficiencies between sputtering and evaporation can be significant. This is what our chief technologist, Robert Wendt, learned in his many years working with CIGS.
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