Alternative Energy

Aerosol Jet technology helped increase silicon solar cell efficiency by 20%.


Solar Cells

Aerosol Jet deposition systems enable the production of higher efficiency solar cells than is possible through traditional screen-printing techniques. With Aerosol Jet technology you can print fine feature collector lines and bus-bar lines at ambient temperature without masks or stencils. Aerosol Jet technology is a Direct Write™, non-contact print process enabling the deposition of photovoltaic materials onto planar and non-planar substrates.

Fine-feature collector lines with widths between 18 um and 60 um have been produced with Aerosol Jet systems by using new and modified versions of existing screen-printing materials. The narrower, high integrity collector lines have higher conductivity and a lower shadowing effect, thereby increasing photovoltaic cell efficiency. And because the process is non-contact, Aerosol Jet systems can print on thinner wafers and with less breakage than screen printing techniques.

Leading Industrial Researchers using Aerosol Jet technology include: the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL), the University of New South Wales (UNSW), the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systmes (ISE) and more. In addition, a number of commercial cell manufacturers have purchased Aerosol Jet equipment to develop new cell architectures based on the system’s unique material deposition capabilities. Their Aerosol Jet development activities have focused around C-Si front-side and back-side metallization improvements – including the printing of Copper; alternative approaches for fire-through such as the direct deposition of etchants; and the application of dopants to facilitate selective emitters; all of which are targeted to help yield higher cell efficiencies.

For more information click here to access a Fraunhofer report on “Fine Line Printed Silicon Solar Cells Exceeding 20% Efficiency.”

Fuel Cells

Optomec’s systems offer both cost and functional benefits for the production of solid oxide fuel cells. The Aerosol Jet process is a “digital” additive manufacturing approach that creates structures and patterns without the cost of screens, masks or other tooling. Plus, the process provides for high material utilization rates, which lowers the consumption of expensive catalysts and other materials. Additionally, the system has the unique capability to dynamically mix multiple materials during deposition, which allows the user to create smooth transitions between the material layers of a solid oxide fuel cell as opposed to abrupt interfaces. This architecture creates a larger functional zone that results in higher efficiencies and increased power densities. In addition, it produces better mechanical stability at the interface compared with traditional approaches, which can result in delamination due to mismatches in the coefficients of thermal expansion between different materials. Finally, the Aerosol Jet system can also be used for material deposition on non-planar supports for producing cylindrical-type SOFCs or ceramic membranes.