Copper Indium Gallium Selenide (CIGS)? Comments Off on Copper Indium Gallium Selenide (CIGS)?

What is Copper Indium Gallium Selenide (CIGS)?

Copper Indium Gallium Selenide (CIGS) solar cell is a thin-film solar cell, which is used for converting sunlight into electricity. CIGS is made through deposition a thin layer of copper, indium, gallium, and selenium on glass or plastic, and with electrodes on the front and back to collect electricity.

CIGS modules have the highest level of efficiency (22.8%) compared to crystalline silicon (c-Si) wafer-based solar cells. For producing 1000 MW/yr with 15% module efficiency, the cost of CIGS module production is estimated to be $0.34/W.

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DuPont will later this year try to show off a tool that can help get rid of glass.

The chemical giant-one of the biggest suppliers of chemicals andfilms to the solar industry-will be able to demonstrate a prototype ofa tool later this year that effectively will let manufacturers ofcopper indium gallium selenide (CIGS) solar cells and OLED displaysprotect their products with thin layers of ceramic and polymer materialinstead of glass. The prototype is being developed under a Departmentof Energy grant. Ideally, the material could move towardcommercialization in a few years.

“The CIGS sensitivity to moisture is quite severe,” said Marc Doyle,global business director, DuPont Photovoltaic Solutions. “It is easy tomake a good moisture barrier with glass, but what the industry needs isa transparent, flexible barrier with electrical properties.”

To date, moisture has been a major stumbling block for both OLEDand CIGS manufacturers: water vapor seeps in and defects andmalfunctions often follow. The moisture problem for OLEDs is probably aharder one to fix, said Doyle. The OLED industry, though, only has toproduce displays and bulbs that will last five to ten years. Customerswho buy CIGS solar panels will want twenty year warranties and expectthe products to last for 30 years.

A handful of companies-Nanosolar, Ascent Solar Technologies-have begun to produce flexible CIGS modules while start-up Palioswants to commercialize a barrier film it is acquiring in a bankruptcysale. Still, all of these companies will have to pass through rigoroustests before sales can zoom.

Besides protecting against moisture, a ceramic/polymer barrier couldcut costs. Glass for solar cells can cost $10 per square meter or more,he said, which can translate roughly to a cost of ten cents per watt ina solar module. Ideally, ceramic/polymer barriers would cost less oncein mass production. These sheets would also reduce the overall weight,which would cut shipping costs.

And of course, the ceramic/polymer solar modules would be flexible,which would expand the options for installation. These sorts of modulescould be integrated, potentially, into membrane roofing.

Potentially, the market might begin to see lighter and/or flexible crystalline silicon modulesbased around similar barriers and substrates. Manufacturers are workingto reduce the thickness of crystalline wafers to 160 microns. Thethinner wafers become, the more flexible crystalline will become.

DuPont isn’t a name many think of when contemplating the solar industry, but neither are 3M and Dow Chemical for that matter. Still, all three play crucial background roles in the industry. DuPont has produced encapsulants and metal pastes for the past several decades to PV makers.Tedlar, the material that serves as a back sheet for crystalline solarcells, is a de facto standard.  DuPont, in fact, recently committed$295 million to expand its Tedlar manufacturing capacity.

Although solar companies continually tweak their formulas, onechange that may not come about as quickly is a switch from silver tocopper paste for wiring the solar cells inside modules. Copper costsless, but the raw material costs could be outweighed by the changesrequired in processing. Suntech Power Holdings employs copper in itsPluto panels, and start-up 1366 Technologies has promoted copper. It’sone of those issues to keep an eye on


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