In the never-ending pursuit of cost reduction, electroplating of PV cells has been considered for some time by producers as a potential replacement technology for screen printing. However, major progress with print processes resulting in finer metallization lines and reduced silver usage has meant that electroplating has not gained major traction with cell producers. That appears to be beginning to change, with some equipment and material suppliers making progress with plating processes, attracting considerable interest.
One indication of this shift is a deal announced today, and signed during the 2017 SNEC in China in April, which will see Germany equipment supplier RENA collaborate with Chinese producer Aiko Solar on the electroplating of cells. In announcing the collaboration today, the two companies say that the electroplating process can deliver a cost reduction per watt of around US$0.01, or around 15%.
“The plating technology using the ‘Rena InCellPlate’ will help us to drive down the cost as we can replace the screen-printed front side silver electrodes,” said Aiko Chairman Chen Gang in a statement. “This will be a major cost saving.”
Rena has collaborated with copper material supplier MacDermid Enthone, and laser supplier InnoLas on the electroplating process. It was recognized by pv magazine’s independent jury as the co-winner of the 2017 Technology Highlights award, earlier this year during the SNEC event.
Aiko produces both multi and monocrystalline PERC PV cells, including bifacial products. Rena has supplied alkaline texturing, Rena BatchTex, and edge isolation, Rena InOxide+, equipment to Aiko for its monocrystalline cell production lines.
Aiko has achieved efficiencies of 21.5% on mono PERC cells and has achieved a bifaciality of over 70%. The Chinese producer says that the Rena wet chemistry platforms allow it to meet the cell surface requirements of a variety of cell concepts.