Heliatek achieves 10.7 percent OPV efficiency; to begin module production this year


The key to its efficiency success, says Heliatek, is due to the oligomers it employs, which were developed and synthesized at its laboratory in Ulm, Germany. CTO and co-founder, Martin Pfeiffer, explains, "Heliatek is the only solar company in the world that uses the deposition of small organic molecules in a low temperature, roll-to-roll vacuum process. Our solar tandem cells are made of nanometers thin layers of high purity and uniformity. This enables us to literally engineer the cell architecture to systematically improve efficiency and lifetime."

Roll-to-roll production

Heliatek says it will begin roll-to-roll production of its OPV modules in Dresden, in the third quarter of this year. A spokesperson for the company tells pv magazine that the first line will have a relatively small initial capacity of between two and three megawatts (MW), since it will serve as a proof of concept line. However, they add that the goal is to ramp this up to 15 MWp.

Furthermore, Heliatek has just kicked off its third financing round. It hopes to raise €60 million from both current and new investors to establish a second, 75 MW roll-to-roll production line. Production is scheduled to begin in 2014. The new line is expected to have a "much wider" roll width "and some other features that we cannot disclose right now." The spokesperson adds that there is further room for expansion.

The new "world record" OPV cell will eventually be transferred onto Heliatek’s new production lines. "It is our principle to only research on materials that can be transferred in our production and not just having high efficiency cells that are limited to the lab," continues the spokesperson.

"However, our first modules in series production will be around five to six percent efficiency (aperture). This is, because we have set in the beginning of the production design one working material and cell stack that we used to ramp up production. It would be very complicated to always change this one and work with new ones during the set up and ramp up process. After ramp up, we will start to transfer this record cell into production (if we have not developed a more efficient stack by then …)."

The spokesperson did not divulge how much the cells and modules are expected to cost per Watt to manufacture. They did say, however, that the company has developed a competitive cost structure and that there is potential to decrease costs even further.

The manufacturing equipment has been developed by Heliatek together with several partners and suppliers, including 4jet and 3D Micromac. The production concept, says the spokesperson is unique; since the technology is "in principle" the reverse of organic LEDs, Heliatek says it can draw from its experience and existing machinery know-how.

In terms of sales, the spokesperson says that Heliatek has signed a contract with Reckli. "Other deals are at the moment confidential," they say, adding, "Heliatek's current focus is not to sell to standard PV installers or distributors, but to work with strategic development partners in the area of building material and building integration to develop BIPV solutions. In addition, we will supply solar films for smaller off-grid applications."

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