Inline processing of crystalline silicon solar cells: the holy grail for large-scale manufacturing?

Published: August 1, 2009

By Jan Bultman, Program Manager for Silicon Photovoltaics , Energy Research Centre of the Netherlands; Jaap Hoornstra, Solar Energy Group, Energy Research Centre of the Netherlands; Yuji Komatsu, R&D Group, Energy Research Centre of the Netherlands; Ingrid Romijn, Solar Energy Group, Energy Research Centre of the Netherlands; Arno Stassen, Research Scientist, Energy Research Centre of the Netherlands; Kees Tool, Production Line Analysis and Optimization, Energy Research Centre of the Netherlands

Lowering the cost of production of solar cells requires higher throughputs and higher production yields for thinner and more fragile silicon wafers, and inline processing could hold the key. However, current processes used in production do not enable full inline processing and often require a substantial amount of handling between process stations as the throughputs per station and tray requirements differ greatly. It will take many years before a full inline process flow is available and if it comes, wafers will most likely be positioned on a single tray throughout all process stations. This paper will discuss the current processing methods for all individual process steps and will provide an outlook on inline processing in view of the three cost reduction strategies: thinner wafers, higher throughput, and higher efficiency cell designs.

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