19 October 2010


Japan’s Solar Frontier to co-develop IBM’s CZTS solar cell technology

Solar Frontier, a subsidiary of Japanese energy business Showa Shell Sekiyu K.K. that makes copper indium gallium sulfur selenium (CIGSSe, or CIS) thin-film photovoltaic cells, has agreed to jointly develop thin-film solar cell technology devised by IBM based on copper, zinc, tin, sulfur, and selenium (CZTS). The research will mainly take place at IBM’s Thomas J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, NY, USA.

Similar to Solar Frontier, DelSolar Co Ltd of Hsinchu Science-Based Industrial Park, Taiwan (a subsidiary of Delta Electronics) also recently (in late September) partnered with IBM in developing the technology.

In February, IBM announced record efficiency of 9.6% for CZTS-based solar cells, up 40% on previous CZTS solar cells. The new joint development aims to couple IBM’s research with Solar Frontier’s thin-film development and manufacturing capabilities to create a cost-competitive solar technology that is inexpensive and uses earth-abundant (indium-free) materials.

CZTS-based technology uses materials that avoid heavy metals and are readily available at a lower cost. By virtue of these materials, the goal of the project is to create next-generation solar technology that lowers the cost of producing electricity, enabling solar energy to become a ubiquitous alternative to carbon-based energy sources.

Solar Frontier currently has two manufacturing facilities in Miyazaki, Japan. A third plant with annual capacity of 900MW will become operational in 2011, making it the world’s largest PV production facility and bringing Solar Frontier’s total capacity to 1GW (expected to be the world’s largest CIS PV capacity).

“Solar Frontier’s extensive experience in the R&D of CIS thin-film photovoltaic technologies has delivered numerous conversion efficiency breakthroughs that have resulted in world-class records,” says the firm’s chief technology officer Satoru Kuriyagawa. “We are interested in exploring CZTS for its evolutionary compatibility with our CIS thin-film technology. The goals of the project correspond with Solar Frontier’s mission to combine both economical and ecological solar energy solutions,” he adds.

“Solar Frontier is one of the world’s leading experts in CIS-based thin-film solar panels,” says T.C. Chen, VP of science & technology IBM Research. “Adding Solar Frontier’s deep expertise in thin-film-based solar device technology to this project will strengthen the collaborative effort we began in this area with [process equipment maker] Tokyo Ohka Kogyo Co Ltd [in mid-2008] for developing chemistry and tooling expertise; and more recently adding DelSolar’s solar module and manufacturing expertise,” he adds. “This team will significantly increase our ability to create CZTS photovoltaic technology that achieves sustainable grid parity.”

See related items:

Solar Frontier enters global CIS module supply agreement with GE

IBM makes 9.6%-efficient PV cell from earth-abundant materials

Search: Solar Frontier Thin-film solar cells IBM CZTS



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