New CIGs record to rival silicon

The manufacturer of thin film cells has had the record confirmed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) for a 125 mm substrate which, after deposition, was sub-divided into four pieces producing a range of levels from 15.3 to 16.36 percent.

The news is sure to provide a welcome boost to the thin film marketplace, which until now has produced efficiency levels much lower than their crystalline and silicon counterparts. By breaking the 16 percent mark, CIGS technology is now truly closing the gap.

Thin film cells have tended to be around half the efficiency level of silicon, but as the efficiency climbs, the value proposition changes and they become a more attractive option.

The patent pending system and processing technology, which XsunX calls CIGSolar, focuses on the mass production of individual thin film CIGS solar cells that match silicon solar cell dimensions, but are marketed as a non-toxic, high-efficiency and cheaper alternative to the use of silicon solar cells.

Robert Wendt, CTO of XsunX, said that the record was testament to the company’s goal to produce high performance, low cost thin film CIGS solar cells that can rival silicon cells in size and performance.

"NREL’s official measurement of 16.36 percent supports our manufacturing approach and the viability of single cell processing," he said in a statement. "We believe the efficiency levels that we achieved can provide an economically viable process that we can offer the market."

Wendt was also confident that the company’s approach also meant that there would not be a large gap in taking the technology from the laboratory to the marketplace. "We believe that our approach lends itself to direct translation to production," he said.

Tom Djokovich, the CEO of XsunX, also said that the results could really impact the marketplace. "We focused our efforts on the belief that high performance CIGS solar cells could offer an alternative to the use of more costly silicon technology," he said. "The official measurements conducted by NREL help to show that small area co-evaporation offers the necessary conversion efficiencies to compete with silicon."

Technical details

The technology utilizes co-evaporation for rapid deposition of final-sized cells to control the complex management of the CIGS layer deposition process. XsunX begins and ends the construction process using individual substrates sized to match silicon cells.

As well as providing for a smaller and more accurate deposition environment, this also helps to avoid performance losses experienced when cells are either cut from rolls of CIGS material or mismatched electrically in monolithic assemblies.

Of the four samples taken by the NREL, the overall average was 15.91 percent efficiency.

CIGS new rivalry with silicon is seen by XsunX $13 billion dollar (€9.3 billion) market opportunity.