Copper Outruns Silver To Enhance Photo voltaic Cell Manufacturing

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Copper and aluminum can convey photovoltaic manufacturing nearer to the round financial system, enhancing environmental and social requirements.

The rising value and low availability of uncooked supplies are resulting in larger prices in producing photovoltaic modules. Researchers at Fraunhofer Institute for Photo voltaic Vitality Techniques ISE have developed which replaces silver with copper for the electroplating course of utilized in manufacturing of photo voltaic cells.

At simply 19 micrometers in width, the copper contacts are extraordinarily skinny. In consequence, the light-sensitive silicon layer doesn’t expertise a lot shading. Credit score: PV2+

The areas with electrically conductive areas don’t require full electroplating with copper and therefore first must be masked. These areas are coated utilizing an electrically insulating impact which prevents it from being electroplated. The copper layer will solely construct up within the areas not coated with the insulation.

One other important development made right here is that costly polymer-based lacquers or laminated foils have been changed with aluminum. Switching the supplies twice, from silver to copper and from polymer to aluminum, additionally brings twice the profit: Producing photo voltaic cells is just not solely extra sustainable, but in addition considerably cheaper.

“We developed a particular electroplating course of that makes it attainable to make use of copper as a substitute of silver for the busbars,” explains Dr. Markus Glatthaar, an professional in metallization and structuring. As a result of copper line’s’ extraordinarily small width of solely 19 μm (micrometers), the light-absorbing silicon layer experiences much less shading than with the silver traces. This and the excessive conductivity of electroplated copper enhance the electrical energy yield.

Three-dimensional confocal microscopy picture of a copper contact produced utilizing the laser-assisted course of developed by PV2+. The even, semi-circular form of the contact ensures a excessive degree {of electrical} conductivity. Credit score: PV2+

The second technological achievement made by the Fraunhofer group is utilizing aluminum as a masking layer. However an issue right here is that the electrically conductive nature of aluminum, which renders it at first look unsuitable to make use of as a masks. Researchers took benefit of the truth that aluminum can kind an insulating oxide layer on its floor. “We have been capable of adapt the method parameters and develop a particular sort of electrolyte which ensures that the aluminum’s extraordinarily skinny, native oxide layer can reliably fulfill its insulating perform. This was an necessary milestone for the success of our analysis mission,” Dr. Glatthaar is happy to report.

Copper and aluminum each being recyclable supplies can convey photovoltaic manufacturing a lot nearer to the round financial system, enhancing environmental and social requirements within the course of. “On condition that we’ve ample provides of copper in Germany, the availability chains are a lot shorter and the value is much less depending on worldwide uncooked materials markets or overseas suppliers,” provides Dr. Glatthaar.




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