Total invests in semiconductor, PV research

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French oil and energy group, Total, which is the largest shareholder of U.S. solar module maker, SunPower, and the French National Research Agency, (CNRS) have announced the creation of the Industrial Research Chairs (IRC) ANR Pistol, a new research initiative aimed at developing new advanced processes for the treatment of plasma on semiconductors for solar PV and microelectronics applications.

The  four year project will be run by the École Polytechnique and CNRS’s Laboratory of Physics of Interfaces and Thin Films (LPICM). The two entities will work on how to reduce costs of the plasma treatment of semiconductors, whose basic proceedings are commonly used also in the solar industry, CNRS said in a press release.

Plasma treatment is used in the thin film solar industry to remove impurities and contaminants from the semiconductor surfaces. This surface cleaning is aimed at increasing the quality of the semiconductor materials, thus improving the performance of solar cells.

The aim of the Pistol project, the agency stressed, is also to create new research opportunities for innovative electronic components. More details on what specific applications for PV may be developed, however, were not provided.

Total is expanding its business and research activities in the solar industry, as well as other big French energy players. In early January, the EDF group announced its intention to expand its ingot and wafer production, while Engie  acquired several companies in the PV and renewable energy sector over the past two years.