Copper and aluminum can convey photovoltaic manufacturing nearer to the round financial system, enhancing environmental and social requirements.

The rising worth and low availability of uncooked supplies are resulting in larger prices in producing photovoltaic modules. Researchers at Fraunhofer Institute for Photo voltaic Vitality Techniques ISE have developed which replaces silver with copper for the electroplating course of utilized in manufacturing of photo voltaic cells.

At simply 19 micrometers in width, the copper contacts are extraordinarily skinny. Because of this, the light-sensitive silicon layer doesn’t expertise a lot shading. Credit score: PV2+

The areas with electrically conductive areas don’t require full electroplating with copper and therefore first must be masked. These areas are coated utilizing an electrically insulating impact which prevents it from being electroplated. The copper layer will solely construct up within the areas not coated with the insulation.

One other vital development made right here is that costly polymer-based lacquers or laminated foils have been changed with aluminum. Switching the supplies twice, from silver to copper and from polymer to aluminum, additionally brings twice the profit: Producing photo voltaic cells is just not solely extra sustainable, but additionally considerably cheaper.

“We developed a particular electroplating course of that makes it doable to make use of copper as an alternative of silver for the busbars,” explains Dr. Markus Glatthaar, an skilled in metallization and structuring. Because of the copper line’s’ extraordinarily small width of solely 19 μm (micrometers), the light-absorbing silicon layer experiences much less shading than with the silver strains. This and the excessive conductivity of electroplated copper enhance the electrical energy yield.

Three-dimensional confocal microscopy picture of a copper contact produced utilizing the laser-assisted course of developed by PV2+. The even, semi-circular form of the contact ensures a excessive stage {of electrical} conductivity. Credit score: PV2+

The second technological achievement made by the Fraunhofer group is utilizing aluminum as a masking layer. However an issue right here is that the electrically conductive nature of aluminum, which renders it at first look unsuitable to make use of as a masks. Researchers took benefit of the truth that aluminum can type an insulating oxide layer on its floor. “We had been in a position to adapt the method parameters and develop a particular kind of electrolyte which ensures that the aluminum’s extraordinarily skinny, native oxide layer can reliably fulfill its insulating perform. This was an vital milestone for the success of our analysis venture,” Dr. Glatthaar is happy to report.

Copper and aluminum each being recyclable supplies can convey photovoltaic manufacturing a lot nearer to the round financial system, enhancing environmental and social requirements within the course of. “Provided that now we have enough provides of copper in Germany, the availability chains are a lot shorter and the worth is much less depending on worldwide uncooked materials markets or overseas suppliers,” provides Dr. Glatthaar.

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