Fraunhofer ISE spins out solar cell company

Fraunhofer ISE spins out solar cell company

Business news |
By Nick Flaherty

Fraunhofer ISE in Germany has spun off its research on solar cells into a startup company

The contactless dispensing process from HighLine Technology not only saves resources but also increases the electricity yield and the potential for cost reductions. Applications also include production processes outside the field of photovoltaics.HighLine Technology builds on ten years of research on dispensing processes for silicon solar cell metallization at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems (ISE). The team developed a multi-nozzle dispensing print head along with expertise on printing pastes and processes.

The technology can easily be integrated into conventional production lines for silicon solar cells, replacing the screen printing process normally used for the front-side metal contacts. In addition, the material consumption of the costly silver is reduced by around 20 percent.

The front-side contacts produced by the process are thinner, exposing a larger semiconductor surface to the sunlight. This increases the electricity output and thus the efficiency by approximately 1% relative. The contactless process promises a lower reject rate when using thinner silicon wafers, and the inline printing process increases the throughput significantly as compared to the conventional screen printing process.

“Our main focus is currently on reducing material consumption in the photovoltaic industry,” said Dr. Maximilian Pospischil, Managing Director and one of the founders of HighLine Technology. “Our aim is to bring the highly efficient parallel dispensing technology which was developed at Fraunhofer ISE to the market. Along the way, we are continuing to work closely with Fraunhofer ISE’s Photovoltaic Technology Evaluation Center PV-TEC. Besides the photovoltaic industry, our dispensing technology is attractive for other industrial production processes. Our service offer includes accompanying companies from equipment manufacturing, through the process integration up to the application”.

In the dispensing technology, the materials are pressed through the many miniscule nozzles of highly parallel print heads onto the front solar cell surface via a contactless printing process. As opposed to a toothpaste tube, however, the PV production developers use nozzles with diameters  which are only half as thick as a human hair (approx. 20 µm). The tiny nozzles work in parallel to produce the desired structures at high throughput.

“We are very pleased to welcome HighLine Technology as a new customer of our PV-TEC,” said Dr. Ralf Preu, Head of Photovoltaic Production Technology at Fraunhofer ISE. “The unique infrastructure of PV-TEC makes it possible for us to cooperate with start-ups in an excellent way, enabling us to adapt new technology developments to specifically meet the market needs.”

HighLine Technology is backed by the Fraunhofer Technology Transfer Fund, and has received funding from the EXIST Transfer of Research program of the Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy BMWi.

To date Fraunhofer ISE has helped create more than a dozen companies that bring the technologies and methods developed at the institute to the market.

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