15 March 2010


RFMD makes first PV cells using high-volume 6” GaAs equipment

Radio-frequency microelectronic component maker RF Micro Devices Inc of Greensboro, NC, USA says that it has manufactured what is claimed to be the industry's first photovoltaic (PV) cell using high-volume 6-inch gallium arsenide (GaAs) wafer fabrication equipment. RFMD used its existing 6-inch GaAs wafer fabrication facilities, with no equipment modifications.

The firm says that this represents the first in a series of anticipated achievements related to the commercialization of high-performance multi-junction PV cells. Last July, RFMD announced that it had entered into a cooperative agreement with the US Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to develop a commercially viable and high-volume-capable compound semiconductor-based process for high-performance multi-junction PV cells.

“NREL’s collaboration with RFMD demonstrates our commitment to developing the best technologies for renewable energy and aligning with the most capable partners to commercialize and deploy each technology,” comments NREL director Dan Arvizu. “We applaud RFMD’s successful achievement of this first technical performance milestone,” he adds.

“By combining NREL's technology leadership and decades of research with RFMD’s industry-leading cost structure and technical expertise in commercializing high-performance, reliability-proven compound semiconductors, we are accelerating the commercialization of a next-generation process technology that promises the solar industry's lowest-cost, highest-performance PV cells,” says RFMD’s president & CEO Bob Bruggeworth.

“Semiconductor firms have the potential to change the dynamics in the concentrated PV market, since they may be able to produce low-cost, high-efficiency solar cells on their existing, depreciated equipment and robust manufacturing processes,” comments Alfonso Velosa, research director, Semiconductors for market research firm Gartner. “Within a few years the concentrated PV market may be able to deliver large volumes of renewable electricity, based in part on obtaining large volumes of high-quality — yet low cost — solar cells, from ‘bankable’ manufacturers,” he adds.

RFMD achieved the PV cell milestone in the Foundation Phase of the NREL agreement, during which the capability to make basic PV cells at its manufacturing facilities is being established. A subsequent Technology Demonstration Phase will then begin, during which PV cells leveraging NREL’s IP and technology will be fabricated. In the final Production Readiness Phase, RFMD aims for its high-volume, 6-inch fabrication plants to demonstrate high-performance PV cells with high yields, high reliability, high reproducibility and low cost.

Execution of RFMD’s multi-year agreement with NREL is expected to result in high-volume production of PV cells in RFMD's fabs as early as 2012, using technology capable of best-in-class solar cell conversion efficiency. NREL’s technology has demonstrated one of the world’s highest reported solar cell conversion efficiencies (40.8%), and continued substantial improvements in efficiency are expected.

See related item:

RFMD and NREL collaborate on commercializing high-performance PVs

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