Speaking to pv magazine about the feat on December 1, which saw a silver-free cell being manufactured at an efficiency of over 21 percent, Philip Pieters, business development director PV at imec said that the use of copper in commercial solar cell products "may come sooner than some think".
Schott Solar has today backed this statement up, saying that if it can demonstrate long-term stability, silver will not need to be used in cell manufacturing in the future.
The company has achieved 19.7 percent efficiency on an industrial wafer 156mm x 156mm, using standard production processes, and electroplated copper contacts on the front side. Unlike Kaneka and Imec, the milestone has been officially confirmed by the Fraunhofer ISE on December 8.
In terms of the technology used, Schott says that the backside of the cell has been passivated using Passivated Emitter and Rear Contact (PERC) technology and aluminum screen printing. "This new cell represents a real milestone on its way to achieving higher output at lower production costs," commented Axel Metz, director of solar cell development at Schott. He added that the next stage will be proving the technology in the long-term.
In other news, Schott announced at the start of December that it will close its solar cell manufacturing facility in Alzenau, Germany. It will however, continue to conduct its cell research and development activities there.
According to German media reports, the move has affected 230 of the companys 420 employees. The reason cited was the current, weak market conditions. In a similar move in October, Schott scaled back its wafer production in Jena, meaning that 250 of its workers were moved onto part time hours.