CSEM inaugurates expanded solar research and testing facilities

On Thursday, the Swiss Center for Electronics and Microtechnology (CSEM) inaugurated over 1,000 square meters of new solar PV research and testing facilities which it says completes its center for solar PV research.

50 workers are employed in the CSEM’s PV-center in Neuchâtel, Switzerland, the original version of which was inaugurated three years ago. The organization says that the new facilities will allow researchers to continue the work that CSEM began with that first lab.

"These new infrastructures are unique in Switzerland,” PV-Center Director Christophe Ballif declared in a press statement. “With them, we will be able to help Swiss companies increase their competitiveness.”

"Although solar energy is enjoying rapid growth, it is still far from being used to its full potential – in association with everyday objects, for example.”

The clean room focuses on wet chemical processing and thin film applications, and occupies 500 square meters. The module testing and production laboratories another 600 square meters. These facilities allow work in metallization and interconnection, PV module lamination and material and cell characterization, as well as module characterization and reliability testing.

For a small nation, Switzerland has a big presence in the PV industry, and among other companies the nation is home to PV equipment maker Meyer Burger. Solar PV is particularly emphasized at CSEM, which also collaborates with the PV-Lab at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL).

Among the focuses of CSEM has been heterojunction PV technology, where multiple layers of different semiconductor materials are layered in a PV cell to increase the range of absorption of the light spectrum and yield higher efficiencies.

This has been an area of collaboration between CSEM and Meyer Burger, which makes heterojunction cell production lines. Additionally, in January CSEM and the United States Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratories (NREL) set a new efficiency record of 29.8% for a dual-junction PV cell using indium phosphide and crystalline silicon layers.