The 12% efficiency, on a prototype of ISETs portable (9 cm x 29.8 cm) CIGS module, was recently verified by The National Renewable Energy Laboratory. According to ISET, this result represents a world record for a monolithically integrated thin-film module made by a sprayable solution method.
ISET has previously pioneered fabricating CIGS thin-film solar cells using nanoparticle inks. However, beginning in 2010, ISET transitioned to depositing the CIGS precursor layer using a sprayable clear liquid solution, resulting in improved deposition uniformity, lower solution preparation costs, and easier material handling through the production equipment.
According to Dr. Ashish Bansal, Vice President of R&D, the new precursor layers behave very differently than the precursor layers deposited using the nanoparticle inks. We had to come up with a whole new set of processing conditions to achieve the champion efficiency. But our extensive experience allowed us to go up the learning curve very rapidly and we were able to achieve record efficiency in less than two years starting from scratch, he said. In all of this new SSB process development, we never lost sight of cost competitive manufacturability and our new solution-based processing costs, he added.
Using this new technology, ISET has recently reported a cost-per-watt trajectory based on production in the USA which competes favorably with todays leading polycrystalline silicon module suppliers, despite the recent dramatic cost-reductions for conventional solar panel manufacturing. Depending on geographic placement of manufacturing operations, ISET projects production costs for solution-based CIGS could achieve as much as 30% advantage over todays leading c-Si manufacturers at comparatively modest initial production volumes.
Our cost-efficient SSB CIGS approach will be profitable even at todays module price point asserts Dr. Vijay K. Kapur, ISETs CEO and President. He further noted, With scale, [the technology] projects to sustain attractive profit margins overtime. This initial milestone establishes a cost-trajectory which will effectively challenge the dominance of crystalline-silicon technology.
The company plans a domestic expansion based on its sprayable CIGS process with focus on value-added portable and off-grid battery charging markets. Additional development is ongoing for global technology licensing for large-volume manufacturing operations focused on grid-connected PV.