When you think of solar cells, you most likely don’t think of ink as an important component. However, Applied Nanotech Holdings, Inc. (OTC: APNT) has just received $1.6 million from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to create a pilot program for manufacturing and commercializing ink to be used in metallic conductor layers on thin silicon solar cells.
The DOE funds are part of a US$57 million Xlerator program designed to help small businesses develop manufacturing processes for advanced technologies.
Earlier research by Applied Nanotech demonstrated the feasibility of photovoltaic compatible inks. The next phase involves creating a pilot scale production, a small capacity manufacturing facility (to be operational in 90-120) for the specialized inks.
Non-contact printable ink will allow next generation thin-silicon cells to reach high-volume production. Current solar cells are manufactured through a screen-printing process that applies the metallic contacts. However, the pressure exerted by the process can break or damage silicon wafers thinner than 200 microns.
With thinner wafers, solar cells gain efficiency and reduce materials costs. Wafer thickness to 100 microns can only be possible through the use of non-contact printing processes such as such as those using ink. Thinner wafers also allow for more flexible and advanced solar technology.
“This Phase III grant will be a wonderful vehicle to help launch products for the fast-growing clean energy market. In addition to our previous recognition by R&D 100 for our copper ink, this grant is a wonderful validation of our nanoparticle ink technology,” said Dr. Zvi Yaniv, CEO of Applied Nanotech, Inc.
Image credit: Surajram Kumaravel via Flickr
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