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1 July 2009


RFMD and NREL collaborate on commercializing high-performance PVs

Radio-frequency component maker RF Micro Devices Inc of Greensboro, NC, USA has entered into a multi-year Cooperative Research And Development Agreement (CRADA) with the US Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).

NREL’s photovoltaic research experience will be combined with RFMD's expertise in volume manufacturing of reliability-proven compound semiconductors at its wafer fabrication plant, for the purpose of developing commercially viable and production-capable process technology for high-performance photovoltaic (PV) cells.

The project is being run by RFMD’s New Technology Commercialization Center unit, which was formed to identify new applications for the firm's manufacturing technology, according to Jerry Neal, RFMD co-founder and executive VP of marketing & strategic development.

The CRADA is expected to result in RFMD’s high-volume fabs producing PV cells as early as 2012, using technology that is capable of best-in-class solar cell conversion efficiency. Last August, a modified version of the NREL’s inverted metamorphic multijunction (IMM) cell design (which uses a gallium arsenide substrate) set a record efficiency of 40.8% under 326-sun concentration. Although this has since been superseded by Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems achieving 41.1% under 454 suns, NREL expects further substantial improvements in the efficiency of its own cells. “Working with RFMD to commercialize PV cells will help us realize our laboratory’s mission of developing and commercializing advanced, next-generation energy technologies,” says NREL director Dan Arvizu.

During the CRADA, technical representatives from both RFMD and NREL will collaborate at NREL and in RFMD's facilities in Greensboro. The CRADA will be accomplished in three phases:

  • A foundation phase, which will establish the capability to manufacture basic PV cells at RFMD's manufacturing facilities;
  • A technology demonstration phase, during which PV cells using NREL’s technology will be fabricated at RFMD's manufacturing facilities; and
  • A production readiness phase, establishing the manufacturing at RFMD’s fabs of PV cells with high yields, high reliability, high reproducibility and low cost.

“We are very pleased to be collaborating with NREL to leverage our wafer manufacturing expertise and cost structure to manufacture high-performance photovoltaic cells available in high volumes, with high quality and reliability and at greatly reduced cost,” says RFMD's president & CEO Bob Bruggeworth. “RFMD’s industry-leading wafer fabrication capability and expertise in commercializing compound semiconductors, combined with NREL's technology leadership and decades of research, uniquely position us to accelerate the commercialization of this next-generation technology,” he adds. “We expect our expertise and scale will positively impact the market for concentrated photovoltaic cells.”

See related items:

NREL’s IMM solar cell wins federal technology transfer prize

GreenVolts and NREL to commercialize IMM multi-junction solar cells

Search: RFMD NREL PVs IMM cell GaAs substrate