Meyer Burger inaugurates heterojunction pilot line

As the push towards high efficiency PV continues, Meyer Burger has unveiled a new pilot line to continue developing its HJT technology. While the 600 kW line is an R&D facility, Meyer Burger production equipment has been installed at the Swiss-Inno HJT facility in a move with which it hopes to demonstrate the technology’s maturity and production readiness.

Researchers at Neuchatel University labs began working with HJT technology a decade ago under Christophe Ballif. He now heads CSEM’s PV program, and will oversee its activities as it continues to test and develop the high efficiency HJT PV technology on production tooling at the new line.

While technology upgrades that can be retrofitted to existing production lines, such as PERC cell technology, have been the most common technology developments in large-scale PV fabs of late, Meyer Burger is pushing its “next generation” HJT cell technology that it intends to be applied to new lines. HJT cells can regularly achieve conversion efficiencies of 22%. Meyer Burger has produced a 20% efficient HJT module, with 327 W output in a 60-cell configuration.

The Swiss-Inno HJT project line was opened at a special event at the Meyer Burger/CSEM facility in Neuchattel this morning. Doris Leuthard, the Swiss Minister of the Environment, Transport Energy and Communications, opened the facility, along with Meyer Burger CEO Peter Pauli, Neuchatel State Council Member Jean Nat Karakash and CSEM’s Christophe Ballif. pv magazine attended the event.

“For me, it’s a very nice day because I started this project here in 2004/05 and we have developed the full process, from laboratory cells through to full production,” said CSEM’s Ballif. “People can now order a full production lines and when I see that in my laboratory every day PhD students can make a 22% solar cell, [I can see] it’s a beautiful process, it works.”

The Meyer Burger/CSEM HJT cells are manufactured by depositing very thin amorphous silicon (a-Si) onto both sides of a monocrystalline wafer. The plasma-enhanced chemical vapor deposition process, for the a-Si application, is not dissimilar to that which is used in flat panel display production. It can be performed relatively quickly, at around one to two minutes for a 50-cell batch, and at 200C – a reduction from the 700C to 800C commonly used in production. Importantly, Ballif says a high level of uniformity of the passivation and doped a-Si layer across the 50 cells can be achieved.

“People continue to think that it’s not possible to coat uniformly a few nanometers of silicon,” Ballif told pv magazine. “We have developed at Meyer Burger and [with subsidiary] Roth & Rau the best reactors to do this kind of high quality coating that will deliver perfect surface passivation. Here [in the Neuchattel Swiss-Inno line] we have the pilot tools with which we can make more samples and can push the efficiency higher. The nice thing about this HJT is the plasma process, because when you are using plasma, you have a lot of possibilities to play with [in terms of] plasma composition: So you have endless possibilities to make contacts that are better for the open circuit voltage and the fill factor.”

Meyer Burger will assemble the HJT cells produced on the Swiss-Inno line into modules at its small-scale module assembly operations at its HQ in Thun, Switzerland. At the Swiss-Inno facility, it is also utilizing its SmartWire technology. Speaking at the event, Meyer Burger CEO Peter Pauli said that high-efficiency technology remains “at the heart of PV technology.”

“The Swiss-Inno HJT project drives further development of a forward-looking, highly efficient cell technology. Working together with CSEM, we will further optimize the important economic advantages, such as lower production costs and higher energy yields at the same time and thus lower the costs of solar energy in the long term.”

The Swiss-Inno line was developed with funding from the Swiss Federal Office of Energy and the Canton of Neuchatel.

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