NREL and Natcore to develop black silicon products

The Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) has been signed to develop commercial prototypes based on NREL’s black silicon inventions and patents. The ‘Black Silicon Nanocatalytic Wet-Chemical Etch’ is a result of the research by NREL solar PV researchers, who demonstrated that black silicon solar cells, which have been chemically etched to appear black, better absorb the sun’s energy.

The license grants Natcore exclusivity in the field of diffused emitters with liquid phase passivation. "Natcore has the ability to passivate black silicon cells using their liquid phase deposition (LPD) technology. That has been the missing piece. It’s what will enable black silicon to reach its potential," explained Dennis Flood, Natcore’s Chief Technology Officer.

According to NREL, the inexpensive, one-step method reduces light reflection from silicon wafers to less than two percent, and could reduce manufacturing production cost and capital costs. The anti-reflection process turns silicon wafers black thus allowing them to absorb 98 percent of solar radiation, compared to the typical 95 percent possible by current solar PV cells. "Double the output, halve the cost," explained Natcore President and CEO Chuck Provini.He stated that the combined NREL-Natcore technologies will reduce cost by eliminating the need for thermal oxidation. And they will increase output by enabling cells to be more productive throughout all daylight hours.

The NREL license comes with a plan with technical and market milestones set for Natcore. The technical milestones include solar cell efficiency goals, some of which are to be met by August of this year. The market milestones include commercial sale dates and dollar targets.