The High Efficiency Silicon Solar Cell Technology project is the first to implement laboratory-proven advanced cell process technology at the Solar Industrial Research Facility (SIRF) at UNSW.
This project enabled the mass production of stable, high-efficiency PERC solar cells on both multi- and mono-crystalline silicon wafers. Highlights included:
- the creation of commercial tools for inline application of the advanced hydrogenation processes;
- a comprehensive model for the behaviour of hydrogen in silicon and its response to solar cell processing;
- the development of rapid testing techniques; and
- a significant contribution to the international light-induced-degradation testing standards.
The work studied all forms of crystalline silicon material that in 2020 represented 95% of all cells produced globally. The first phase (2013-2017) developed and transferred to industry new manufacturing techniques to improve the output power and stability of silicon cells. The second phase (2017-2021) continued the commercialisation of these techniques, adapting them to a wider range of solar cell materials and applying them to solve a new form of light-induced degradation.
Fundamental studies carried out in the project created an understanding of how hydrogen behaves in silicon wafers and how it should be controlled to achieve the optimal processing outcomes. New processes to rapidly test stability and to improve the long-term performance of PERC cells were developed and patented.
As a result of this work, PV panels deployed in systems in Australia and around the world are now more stable and provide higher output power for longer periods of time.
Australia has led the world for many years in high efficiency photovoltaic (PV) device technology. In particular UNSW has held the world record for more than 20 years for solar cell efficiency (the amount of energy converted from sunlight) and successfully commercialised several solar cell technologies.
Despite this success it has been particularly challenging to take such technologies from the laboratory and develop them for mass-production using low cost processes and commercial equipment.
This project focuses on bridging this gap between Australian research labs and large-scale commercial facilities by establishing a Solar Industrial Research Facility (SIRF) at UNSW, so that leading UNSW laboratory technologies can be developed and adapted for implementation and demonstration on the industrial tools located in SIRF.
The High Efficiency Silicon Solar Cell Technology project is the first to implement laboratory-proven advanced cell process technology at the SIRF.
UNSW researchers have demonstrated in the laboratory setting that the use of Laser Doping Selective Emitter (LDSE) technology improves the efficiency of silicon-based solar cells by more than 10%
When combined with the affordable, environmentally sound products used in its design, the technology could help increase the adoption of PV systems by improving their sustainability and cost competitiveness with conventional power stations.
In parallel, a complementary technology known as hydrogenation, which is based on controlling the electric charge in hydrogen atoms to very effectively heal defects in the materials comprising the solar cells, may even further increase cell performance and reduce costs.
In recognition of the potential of these two technologies and very strong support from more than ten industry partners, the LDSE technology and innovative hydrogen passivation techniques will be the first to be evaluated, demonstrated and industrialised in the SIRF, in order to fast track their commercialisation.
A collaborative approach will see the SIRF house key industrial equipment supplied by Suntech R&D Australia, Roth & Rau and others, while UNSW researchers will use their own test bed facilities and those at ANU to assess new techniques and technologies before transferring them to the SIRF.
Manufacturing techniques developed using the proven UNSW LDSE and hydrogenation technologies will be incorporated into the performance improvement roadmaps of the SIRF collaborators.
At the project’s completion, these state-of-the-art PV technologies will be ready for easy manufacturing using ‘off the shelf’ equipment and in a position to be rapidly deployed worldwide.
This project could in three years increase commercial silicon-based PV cell efficiencies from approximately 18% to 23%.
This represents a rate of progress 5-10 times greater than that achieved worldwide in the past 30 years and would open the door to commercial opportunities for Australia.