President’s Message

natcore-president-chuck-provini

 

It has been some time since we spoke in depth about the progress we are making with our technologies. I thought now would be a good time to do so.

Recently we have had several manufacturing firms from Europe and Asia visit our laboratory in Rochester to review our technologies and to see if we might cooperate with them. As a result, we have developed a variety of milestones as well as budgets to achieve those milestones. As you would expect these milestones are scientific (and complicated). The introduction to these proposals, however, gives significant insight into why our technology is becoming attractive to manufacturers and reinforces our belief that we are at the leading edge of the solar industry. I would like to share some of those insights.

While we take great time to consider the technical work in detail, we do not lose sight of the long-term potential of our new cell structure.  The idea of a back contact cell using multilayer foils came from our Science Advisory Board, from folks like Dave Carlson, Daniele Margadonna, Gavin Conibeer and Charlie Gay. All of them have great expertise in the solar industry and are uniquely poised to know what approaches can take the industry to the next level. (Incidentally, we lost Charlie from our Advisory Board when he became Director for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy of the U.S. Department of Energy. In that capacity, he now leads our government’s SunShot Initiative.)

Here is how we see it. Current solar cells, including those with PERC, may ultimately bring the commercial efficiency level to a little over 22%, and always with a reliance on silver. Back contact cells, especially those with silicon heterojunctions, have much higher proven efficiencies (>26%), but are currently too costly. The Natcore multilayer approach moves to a back contact structure with high efficiency potential, but also significantly lowers manufacturing cost. We can achieve this by eliminating costly silver, using aluminum in its place, and by simplifying cell structuring.  We also feel that silicon heterojunctions, through technologies in general, will come down in cost with production volume.

We expect silicon solar cells to be the world’s main source of energy in upcoming years, and also expect that they will evolve from their current form.  The interesting thing about an aluminum foil-based metallization is that it cannot be undercut in cost: there will never be anything cheaper.  Also, there probably will not be a technology better than the silicon heterojunction back contact, as world record demonstrations show these cells getting closer and closer to theoretical limits of silicon. The Natcore multilayer approach gets us immediately to these two long term winning approaches.

I believe that existing cells, regardless of their current structure, have reached the limit of their capability. In order to keep market share, manufacturers must fight for very small incremental increases. Our technology provides the opportunity for large increases in efficiencies and power output at great cost savings because of the replacement of silver with the aluminum component. I feel that in order to maintain any worldwide market share, manufacturers will be forced to integrate our process into their factories.

That’s why they continue to visit our Rochester lab from all over the globe.

If you have any questions or comments, please let us know.

Chuck Provini, President, CEO & Director