Australian solar technology company SunDrive continues to impress with its copper-based solar cell technology, achieving 26.41% efficiency for a full-size silicon cell using mass-production compatible heterojunction technology.
SunDrive achieved an efficiency score of 26.41% on a full-size silicon heterojunction (HJT) solar cell incorporating the company’s copper-based technology using large-scale manufacturing processes provided by China-based equipment manufacturer Maxwell Technologies.
Sydney-based SunDrive said the result, which betters the 26.07% efficiency mark announced by the company earlier this year, has been officially confirmed by the Institute for Solar Energy Research Hamelin (ISFH) in Germany.
The company said that the 274.3 cm2 total area HJT cell (M6 size) improved in all three key performance parameters, including open-circuit voltage (Voc), short-circuit current (Isc) and fill factor (FF ), attributing the improvements to “several equipment and processing upgrades.”
SunDrive said Maxwell’s latest generation chemical vapor deposition (CVD) equipment includes double-sided deposition of a microcrystalline silicon layer, which further improves backside passivation and contact resistance. In addition, more transparent conductive oxide (TCO) layers were deposited using Maxwell’s latest physical vapor deposition (PVD) equipment.
SunDrive said manufacturing the solar cell electrodes using the company’s copper plating technology, rather than traditional silver screen printing, also played a key role in the efficiency improvements. SunDrive, which replaces the silver used in conventional solar cells with the cheaper and more common copper, said it has perfected its copper coating chemistry and processing sequence, achieving feature sizes below 10 µm with an aspect ratio close to one .
“What we have shown is that copper can effectively take the place of silver in these next-generation solar cell structures, but more importantly, the efficiency can be further increased beyond the levels achievable with silver,” the company said .
As solar PV will play an important role in the world’s transition to a clean energy future, SunDrive co-founder Vince Allen said copper is the key to unlocking the floodgates of more efficient solar cell structures, and using it instead of silver could enable solar technology to reach its full potential.
“The solar cells that will provide the majority of the world’s future energy needs will be vastly different from the solar cells we have today,” he said. “Efficiency, cost and scalability of materials are fundamental to the continued growth of solar energy.
“Copper is about 100 times cheaper per kilogram and about 1,000 times more common than silver. And in addition to the abundance and benefits of copper, we found that we could improve the efficiency above and beyond what was achieved with silver.”
SunDrive will now proceed with plans to establish a pilot production line by mid-2023, scaling up to market entry later in the year.
Although no location has been identified for the planned manufacturing facility, Allen said Australia has many of the ingredients needed to host a solar manufacturing industry.
“We recognize that countries are increasingly competing in this space, but with the right policy setup, Australia has the potential to be a global solar powerhouse,” he said.
“We have the need – we have the fastest growing rooftop solar market in the world and Australia is also likely to be home to the top five solar farms in the next decade. We have the people – many of the world’s top solar executives, scientists and engineers have been trained at Australian universities and we have the ability, today’s commercial solar cells were invented here in Australia and Australia has held the world record for efficiency for 30 of the last 40 years.”
Allen said the nation is also blessed with resources considered critical to the clean energy transition.
“Australia has the top three global reserves of every major mineral needed to make solar panels, which no other country can claim,” he said. “Australia probably has the greatest opportunity of any country to not only reach net zero, but to help other countries reach net zero – it’s the sunniest and windiest continent in the world with an extremely large land mass and a lot low population density.’
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