Red Bank, N.J. - (April 12, 2011) - The U.S. Patent Office has awarded a patent to Natcore Technology Inc. (TSX-V; NXT; NTCXF.PK) for a solar cell structure that uses carbon nanotubes to improve cell performance.
The latest patent is based on three earlier foundational patents. The first of these, issued to Rice University and licensed exclusively to Natcore, covers a liquid phase deposition (LPD) process for growing inorganic films on silicon. That patent is at the heart of Natcore's businesses, particularly in the photovoltaic area.
The second foundational patent covers the growth of silicon dioxide on carbon nanotubes and will have particular application in the biomedical and communications industries. The third of these patents covers the growth of inorganic semiconductors (e.g., cadmium telluride, cadmium selenide, others) on carbon nanotubes. Rice and Natcore jointly own the second and third patents.
The newest patent, which is solely owned by Natcore, describes the use of inorganic semiconductor-coated nanotubes to make high-efficiency thin-film solar cells. Natcore is currently in talks with Eastman Kodak and with Phono Solar of China to commercialize this new technology on equipment that was used to manufacture photo film until that market weakened with the growth of digital photography.
"In order for solar energy to become economically viable, one of two things must happen," says Chuck Provini, Natcore's president and CEO. "Someone must find a way either to double the efficiency of solar cells, or to halve their cost. Natcore is responding to both of those challenges. Our scientists working at Rice University continue to make important progress on an all-silicon tandem solar cell, which would bring huge gains in efficiency. And with this new patent, thin film solar cells may be the ultimate future of photovoltaic solar energy technology because their lower materials usage should result in lower manufacturing cost in very high volume production.
"The nanostructured flexible thin film solar cell that we're developing is made using our patented LPD technology," continues Provini. "Both the fabrication process and the cell structure covered by this new patent are exclusive to Natcore. The near-term module efficiency using this technology is projected to be equivalent to commercial silicon modules at 15% to 16%, and the longer-term improvements could raise the efficiency to 20% or more."
The new patent will be issued on July 1, 2011. This U.S. patent award provides Natcore with intellectual property protection for its nanostructured solar cells in the world's largest and most important markets.