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Crystalline thin-foil silicon solar cells: where crystalline quality meets thin-film processing


Frederic Dross, IMEC vzw, Kapeldreef 75, B-3001 Heverlee, Belgium.



Crystalline Si (c-Si) technology is dominating the photovoltaics market. These modules are nonetheless still relatively expensive, in particular because of the costly silicon wafers, which require large thickness mostly to ease handling. Thin-film technologies, on the other hand, use much less active material, exhibit a much lower production cost per unit area, but achieve an efficiency still limited on module level, which increases the total system costs. A meet-in-the-middle is possible and is the object of this paper. The development of c-Si thin-foil modules is presented: first, the fabrication of the active material on a glass module and then the processing of the Si foils into solar cells, directly on module level. The activity of IMEC in this area is put into perspective with regard to worldwide research results. It appears that great opportunities are offered to this cell concept, although some challenges still need to be tackled before cost-effective and reliable industrial production can be launched. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.