24 January 2012

AQT readies ‘CIGS 3.0’ CZTS thin-film PV cells for commercialization

AQT Solar Inc of Sunnyvale, CA, USA, which makes copper indium gallium diselenide (CIGS) thin-film photovoltaic (PV) solar cells, says it has achieved near-record efficiencies using an even lower-cost and production-friendly sputter-deposited copper zinc tin sulfide (CZTS) thin-film solar cell.

AQT has established that the same proprietary manufacturing-ready processes and platforms used to make its CIGS 2.0 solar cells are suited to CZTS. The firm has adopted the term ‘CIGS 3.0’ to refer to its future CZTS product to reflect the broad production compatibility and similarities of the two systems. Like their CIGS counterparts, AQT’s CZTS cells are manufactured as drop-in replacements for crystalline silicon cells, making their adoption seamless with existing crystalline silicon module manufacturing equipment and infrastructure, the firm claims.

The ‘earth abundant’ raw materials comprising CZTS are substantially cheaper than those in CIGS, making it much cheaper to produce. An added benefit is that these constituents are mined and available worldwide, mitigating any geopolitical influence on raw material sourcing and eliminating concerns such as the indium availability and price volatility that have impacted the display and thin-film photovoltaics (TFPV) industries in the past.

A great deal of R&D has been conducted on CZTS since the mid-1990s, and CZTS thin-film cells made by IBM employing a complex organometallic spin-coating process have recently achieved efficiencies as high as 10.4%. By comparison, AQT has rapidly achieved close to 10% efficiencies for sputtered CZTS by leveraging the manufacturing process and platform foundation established for its CIGS product.

AQT plans to have CZTS modules ‘under sun’ later this year and to actively begin the product commercialization process. The firm says that, by employing the same capital-efficient platform as for its CIGS product, it is further validating the flexibility and long shelf-life of its equipment and manufacturing strategy.

“The founders of AQT, all of whom have previously worked in capitally intensive commodity industries, have experienced first-hand the huge disruption to business that occurs when re-capitalization is required due to technology migration, and we have done everything possible to avoid this from affecting our business,” says CEO Michael Bartholomeusz. “Early on we recognized the critical necessity to adopt a future-proofed manufacturing platform and strategy, and it remains a cornerstone of our business, enabling us to easily adapt solar cell production to new, advantageous materials such as CZTS,” he adds.

Earlier in January, AQT raised the first $18.7m of a planned $21.7m Series B round of venture funding, bringing the total capital raised since AQT was founded in 2007 to $33.7m (including a $10m round that closed in 2010). The latest funding is to be used to deploy a second CIGS solar cell production line, doubling annual production capacity (to 30MW).

See related items:

CIGS PV firm AQT secures $18.7m in Series B funding round

Tags: AQT Solar CIGS PV cells

Visit: www.aqtsolar.com

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