At a time when there’s a significant move to TOPCon cells among solar manufacturers, Aiko Solar is setting trends by embracing all back contact (ABC) technology. The ABC structure, which eliminates metal grid lines that block sunlight, can maximize the use of incidental light and reduce optical loss when combined with the use of pyramid structures and anti-reflection layers on the front and back surfaces.
While Aiko, which was founded in 2009, initially became well-known as a bifacial PERC cell manufacturer, the company turned its attention to n-type ABC in 2021 and began production and shipment of solar modules based on the technology in 2022. Aiko’s ABC Black Hole Series recently received the 2023 Red Dot Award for Product Design.
Aiko makes technological advances
While the theoretical efficiency limit of crystalline silicon cells is 29.4%, the academic community generally believes the technical limit to be about 27.5%. Despite this, the maximum efficiency recorded in laboratories is presently 26.8%, indicating that the technology is nearing its practical efficiency ceiling. Aiko’s 610 W ABC module has achieved 23.6% conversion efficiency, which is one of the highest efficiencies in the industry, and the company says mass production of modules with 24% efficiency can be achieved in the next 12 months.
Also on the technological front, recent field tests showed an average performance gain of 15.1% for Aiko’s ABC module compared with PERC, and the company is making progress on a silver-free metal coating that will reduce module costs and alleviate supply chain issues.
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Establishing a foothold in Europe
Although the manufacturer has production sites in China, it established the Solarlab Aiko Europe research institute in August 2020 in Freiburg, Germany, and has secured a spot as a major player on the continent. Aiko has several European partners, including Interuniversity Microelectronics Centre (IMEC) in Belgium, CSEM in Switzerland, TNO in The Netherlands, and Burgenland Energie in Austria, as well as Forschungszentrum Jülich, Institute for Photovoltaics (IPV), and the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems in Germany. Solarlab’s Chief Scientist, Dr. Frank Feldmann, said that the primary purpose of the institute “is to combine China’s mass production competence with European R&D expertise,” with the goal of developing “the most commercially valuable mass production technology.”
Aiko has also built a 10,000 m2 European logistics center in the Netherlands, which enables the manufacturer to complete deliveries within Europe between 1-6 business days, depending on the recipient’s location. According to data collected by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Aiko ranked first in global PV cell shipment in 2021, with over 31.2 GW shipped. The company currently has a production capacity of 42.5 GW and is poised to continue its global growth.
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