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Project overview
  • Lead Organisation

    University of New South Wales


    Sydney, New South Wales

    ARENA Program

    Research and Development

  • Start date

    24 July 2014

    End date

    27 May 2020

  • Project Partners
    Yingli Green Energy Holding Co. Ltd, Trina Solar Ltd, Tempress Systems, Suntech R&D Australia Pty Ltd, Sunrise Global Solar Energy, Sharesun Co. Ltd, SCHMID Group | Gebr. SCHMID GmbH, Roth & Rau AG, Hyundai Heavy industries Co Ltd
    This solar PV project was completed on 27 May 2020.


The Ultimate Performance Silicon Solar Cells project recognises that new solar cell structures and production processes have the potential to further reduce the cost and increase the performance of commercial photovoltaic (PV) solar cells.

It is widely recognised this will be achieved by moving away from the use of silver- based contacts, improving the throughput of metal plating and reducing high temperature processing during manufacture.

With silicon wafer prices dominating the cost of making most solar cells, finding innovative ways to facilitate the use of lower cost, less refined silicon without sacrificing performance could be highly significant.

Key results

Four key aspects of solar cell design and production processes were developed during this project:

  • Eliminating the need for expensive microelectronics grade processing such as photolithography and pattern dielectric layers, by instead using laser processes to achieve the patterning;
  • New processes, such as laser processing, were developed and optimised to pattern the rear dielectric layer to form localised rear contacts on the solar cell;
  • Implementation of the new advanced hydrogenation technology into the solar cell design and fabrication to lower cost by transforming low cost, low quality silicon wafers into ones which are comparable in quality to expensive high- quality wafers.
  • Replacement of expensive silver metal contacts with low cost copper plated contacts.

Solar modules fabricated using this technology have achieved IEC certification. A production “blueprint” (commercialisation package) for the manufacture of these next generation solar cells using the new technologies has been developed to help ensure a smooth transfer of the technology to industry.

Project innovation

The Towards Ultimate Performance Silicon Solar Cells project combined three innovative approaches to improve the performance and cost of commercial silicon solar cells and further develop UNSW’s industry-leading solar cell architectures.

UNSW’s laser-based processing was integrated into industry-leading solar cell technologies to deliver the improved surfaces that are critical to high performance using two complementary approaches: Laser Optimised Metallisation and Localised Dielectric Breakdown.

A complimentary new high-volume metal plating tool was developed and integrated with these processes to deliver high performance, lower cost silicon solar cells.

These innovations were integrated with low cost but high-quality hydrogenated silicon and conventional production approaches to create commercially relevant solar cell designs.

All aspects of the project leveraged the capabilities of the ARENA-funded Solar Industry Research Facility as a key stepping stone in the development and commercialisation of these processes for industry adoption.


The key outcome for this project was a wholly Australian owned state-of-the-art technology for producing commercial solar cells with record-breaking performance allied with improved process reliability and lower production costs. Combining the strengths of the three approaches outlined above, UNSW developed a commercialisation package that provides a blueprint for Australian and overseas manufacture of the next generation of commercial silicon solar cells.

Last updated 24 March 2021
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