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14 March 2008


Sunovia and EPIR complete Phase I solar cell and IR plant

Sunovia Energy Technologies Inc of Sarasota, FL, USA and infrared sensor and imaging firm EPIR Technologies Inc of Bolingbrook, IL, USA have announced completion of the Phase I expansion at EPIR’s Electro-Optic facilities in Bolingbrook, west of Chicago (for the manufacture of solar modules, infrared detectors and components, and biosensor-decontamination devices).

At the end of January, Sunovia and EPIR announced an exclusive partnership to commercialize solar and infrared technologies for the renewable energy and night-vision markets. Also, in mid-February the firms strengthened their partnership with an agreement that provides each with 10% equity ownership in the other, including equal ownership of any developed intellectual property (patents, copyrights, unique processes, etc). Sunovia also has the exclusive marketing rights to all products, technologies and intellectual properties developed at the facility.

The firms say that their infrared expertise is allowing them to transfer infrared technologies directly into next-generation solar cells. Completion of Phase I is a significant step in their work to manufacture cadmium telluride (CdTe)-based solar cells as well as CdTe and mercury cadmium telluride (HgCdTe) infrared detectors and components. More than $25m has been invested in R&D and in the facility, which includes a 2000 square foot cleanroom for manufacturing Electro-Optic products. The firms also have access to over $30m of related facilities at the University of Illinois at Chicago, the Army Research Laboratory in Adelphi, MD and the Army’s Night Vision and Electronic Sensors Directorate at Belvoir, VA.

The cleanroom’s centerpiece is a new production molecular beam epitaxy (MBE) reactor (a smaller version of the reactors used by large defense corporations to manufacture IR focal plane arrays for extremely sensitive high-resolution IR cameras). MBE growth is necessary for the manufacture of the new generation of IR detectors and imagers required by NASA and the US Department of Defense. The reactor is being used to manufacture CdTe films on silicon for high-efficiency solar cells and to grow material for use in advanced IR detectors and imagers, but it could also easily be used for more complex growth for the highest-efficiency solar cells or for complete IR detectors and imagers, it is reckoned.

The firms claim that MBE growth of II-VI-based high-efficiency solar cells is much lower cost than that of III-V high-efficiency solar cells by either MBE or metalorganic chemical vapor deposition (MOCVD) due to the high volatility of the III-V materials used, which requires much more stringent safety precautions and more maintenance of growth equipment.

Also installed is another MBE reactor for the growth of lead tin selenide (PbSnSe) for IR detectors and imagers for very cold objects. Other MBE machines and a sputtering machine also are available. In addition, two more MBE machines are on order for a rapid Phase II expansion.

The two main materials characterization instruments are a high-resolution x-ray diffractometer with a CCD camera for thoroughly analyzing the structural quality of materials and a commercial spectrophotometer for measuring the specular, diffuse and total reflectance, the absorptivity and the transmittivity of materials from the ultraviolet through to the visible and IR regions of the spectrum. The spectrophotometer is key for measuring encapsulant and solar cell material optical properties and, more generally, for measuring the thickness and surface roughness of thin layers for all types of electro-optic devices. The cleanroom also contains a Keithley current-voltage station and an Oriel/Newport solar simulator capable of providing light matching to the solar spectrum both in space and on earth for measuring solar cell efficiency.

The Phase I facility also includes four stations machines designed by EPIR for the precision lapping and polishing of wafers for use in MBE growth, auxiliary equipment and all facilities needed for the development, manufacture and testing of prototype biosensors and bio-decontamination devices. It is claimed to be the only US facility capable of preparing substrates for MBE growth.

Sunovia hires chief operating officer

Sunovia has hired Donna M. Webb as chief operating officer, managing and monitoring all company activities and operations. She will also be responsible for improving and streamlining office systems to ensure overall efficiency.

In more than 20 years of diverse experience, Webb has managed multi-million dollar operations in Ohio, Georgia and Florida, most recently as a hub director in Forsyth County, GA for AVITA Community Partners. “Webb is a solid addition to our rapidly expanding team of business professionals and industry experts,” says CEO Carl Smith.

See related items:

Sunovia establishes infrared division

Sunovia and EPIR win NASA contract for II-VI encapsulated PV cells

Search: Solar cells II-VI MCT HgCdTe CdTe IR MBE