Natcore reaches solar cell milestone

By THOMAS ADAMS - 7/11/2013 4:18:28 PM

Scientists at Natcore Technology Inc. and researchers at Rice University have developed the first inorganic flexible thin-film solar cell by solution processes, and will move the work to Natcore’s research and development facility in Rochester for refinement, officials announced Thursday.

“This is a major step forward in our goal of creating a low-cost flexible solar cell,” Natcore co-founder and Rice professor Andrew Barron said in a statement. “These results demonstrate the feasibility of our approach. This is the first step in moving this towards a commercial cell.”

“We’ve shown the feasibility of using (liquid phase deposition) to grow a whole cell on a flexible substrate that remains flexible even with all the layers,” Natcore President and CEO Charles Provini said in the statement. “Second, if we can marry this development with our multi-junction tandem solar cell technology, we’ll have a truly world-changing event.

“This technology should be adaptable to the production of roll-to-roll solar cells. That has been in our plans since we established our R&D center in proximity to a former Kodak roll-to-roll photo film plant.”

The next step is to improve the quality and efficiency of the cell at Eastman Kodak Co.’s Eastman Business Park, Provini said.

“If we had adequate funds and adequate manpower, we could have a commercial quality cell within a year,” he said.

The work was reported in a recent issue of the journal Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics published by the Royal Society of Chemistry.

Researchers used Natcore’s patented liquid phase deposition process to grow a cadmium-selenium absorber layer on a single-walled carbon nanotube-derived back contact substrate, officials said. The liquid phase deposition also was used to grow a copper-selenium window layer onto which silver contacts were deposited.

The procedure resulted in a photovoltaic device with a characteristic needed to form a flexible solar cell, officials said.

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