'Silicon ink' for solar cells glides toward production

JA Solar, a big player in solar, says Innovalight's ink-based invention for producing high-efficiency solar cells at lower costs could be ready for production by 2010.

JA Solar, one of the big players in the solar industry, is working with Innovalight to commercialize the latter's method for making silicon-ink-based, high-efficiency solar cells, the companies said this week.

Innovalight first got noticed in 2007 for perfecting a process in which it could essentially ink-jet-manufacture solar cells using a proprietary silicon ink it had developed. The solar cells are created by pouring an ink solution incorporated with silicon nanoparticles and then decanting the excess liquid to leave behind a crystalline silicon structure.

This is Innovalight's crystalline silicon solar cell. Innovalight

At the time of the 2007 announcement, Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Innovalight claimed its method not only resulted in solar cells that were cheaper to produce by as much as half, but that the crystalline structure resulting from the process made its cells more efficient at converting electricity.

Those claims now appear to be validated.

On Tuesday, Innovalight announced that an independent study of its method by the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems in Germany confirmed that its silicon ink-based cells "demonstrated a record 18 percent conversion of efficiency."

Shanghai, China-based JA Solar said the process will lower its production cost for this type of solar cell.

"Innovalight's silicon ink in conjunction with JA Solar's leadership in high-volume solar cell manufacturing with demonstrated yield, conversion efficiency, and low production costs, provides a very promising solution to enhance the conversion efficiency of solar cells utilizing our existing solar cell manufacturing lines," Qingtang Jiang, JA Solar's chief technology officer, said in a statement Tuesday.

JA Solar plans to further develop the process at its research and development plant in Yangzhou, a city on China's coast about 630 miles south of Beijing.

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