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Oerlikon simplifies manufacturing of crystalline solar cells

German Oerlikon Systems demonstrated SOLARIS, last month, a new production solution that, according to the company, simplifies the manufacturing of crystalline solar cells.

“The trick was to combine our vast experience on highly productive optical disc deposition equipment (CD/DVD/Blu-ray) as well as our leading nanocoating technology,” says Andreas Dill, Head of the Business Unit, Oerlikon Systems. This resulted in the first single substrate Nanotech Machine designed for mass production.

“If we want to significantly reduce costs for solar power to grid parity, we not only have to improve the cell itself but must rethink production,” Dill adds.

The existing standard fabrication method for coating crystalline solar cells is based on complex processes with high demands made on cleaning and manual maintenance, Oerlikon says.

In solar cell or photovoltaic (PV) production with SOLARIS, very thin layers of silicon nitride are applied on the front of the cells. The backside can be coated with various materials, due to the flexibility of SOLARIS.

Each solar wafer is handled and coated separately, and SOLARIS has 6 coating chambers, a special carrier transport mechanism and a wide range of potential layer material. The machine is able to treat standard wafer formats from 125mm2 to 156mm2 , with an average amounting up to 1200 wafers per hour. Changing substrate formats, layer materials or processes takes less than an hour. A new system at a customer site can be ramped up in less than one week, Oerlikon says.

“Firstly, with a size of 2.0 x 3.3 m, SOLARIS requires 80% less floor space than competitive solutions. Secondly, the fully automated solution requires minimal maintenance. Thirdly, SOLARIS needs significantly less power (minus 50%). Last, but not least, lower maintenance requirements result in a significantly higher uptime. The benefits of SOLARIS are quite obvious. It's a revolutionary concept for solar cell manufacturing - the first of many 'clean technologies' possible with this new system", says Dill.

Production tests are already being run using SOLARIS.

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