11 November 2010


HelioVolt and NREL renew CRADA to continue CIGS PV development

Building on its multi-year collaboration with the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), HelioVolt Corp of Austin, TX, USA says that it is extending the Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) for research carried out at NREL’s facilities to jointly develop the fastest and most efficient method for manufacturing low-cost thin-film copper indium gallium diselenide (CIGS) photovoltaics.

HelioVolt was founded in 2001 by Dr Billy J. Stanbery based on his proprietary FASST manufacturing process for rapid printing of thin-film CIGS material, either directly onto glass substrates for solar modules or onto flexible plastic substrate for embedding in building-integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) products (e.g. architectural glass and roofing tiles). The firm has so far raised more than $140m in venture financing to fund a move into volume production as well as international expansion.

“HelioVolt is deeply committed to our collaborative efforts with NREL. We continue to invest in the relationship because of the tremendous value our teams have jointly contributed to our technology evolution roadmap,” says founder & chairman Dr BJ Stanbery. “CIGS modules are entering a very exciting commercial phase in the solar industry. We believe that high conversion efficiencies — above 15% on a full-size monolithically interconnected module rather than cell level — require developing innovative methods for producing nanoscale building blocks and synthesizing them into device-quality CIGS thin-film material,” he adds. “Our work with NREL provides us a sound foundation for realizing these goals.”

Many steps in conventional thin-film production require deposition of the material onto the substrate in a very low-pressure vacuum chamber. HelioVolt believes that future non-vacuum deposition processes can be less capital intensive, but depositing CIGS films on large areas with the precision necessary to achieve both high performance and low manufacturing costs is difficult without the advantages of its FASST process. HelioVolt and NREL’s efforts in developing non-vacuum atmospheric pressure deposition processes aim to offer a combination of lower cost, process simplicity and reduced manufacturing time, while still delivering high-quality CIGS.

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