Dow Corning and imec Collaborate on Silicon Solar Cells

April 07, 2010 by Jeff Shepard

Dow Corning signed a three-year contract with imec to perform joint research on next generations of crystalline silicon solar cells. In the framework of imec’s industrial affiliation program (IIAP) on silicon solar cells, Dow Corning has joined several program activities.

With its silicon solar cell IIAP, imec has set up a research ecosystem with the aim to create innovative processes to fabricate the next generations of silicon solar cells. The R&D program concentrates on sharply reducing the silicon use, whilst at the same time increasing the efficiency of solar cells. This could substantially lower the cost for solar energy.

The collaboration between Dow Corning and imec will focus on topics where Dow Corning’s advanced materials can bring enabling solutions for the processing and interconnection of future solar cells. An example is a silicone encapsulant process for integrated cell and module processing. Due to the use of very thin and large wafers, cell processing and module assembly become increasingly challenging. Imec and Dow Corning will combine new cell structures with novel silicone encapsulant processes with a goal of producing cost-effective modules with ultra-thin cells. By joining the silicon solar cell IIAP, researchers from Dow Corning will be able to closely collaborate with the research team of imec and its silicon solar cell partners to build up fundamental understanding and develop robust material solutions for next-generation silicon-based solar cells.

"With Dow Corning joining our silicon solar cell IIAP, our research can benefit from the latest innovations in materials. By bringing together all the different players in the silicon solar cell value chain, ranging from energy companies, solar cell manufacturers to material and equipment suppliers, we can speed up the development of new processes which are tested on a semi-industrial pilot line. As such we accelerate the transfer to mass production;" said Jef Poortmans, Program Director imec Energy.

"We are very excited to step into this program and to contribute with our silicon-based materials to the design of the next generation solar cells and modules," said Eric Peeters, Vice President, Dow Corning Solar Business. "It is all about commercializing new technologies that will make solar panels more efficient and more durable, leading to a significant reduction of the cost per kWh of energy generated with photovoltaics. Dow Corning strongly believes in imec’s approach to bring world leaders across the value chain together to work synergistically and make step-change innovation a reality."