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Posted: July 14, 2010
Natcore Achieves Key Breakthrough Toward Bridging Economic Gap Between Solar and Conventional Power
(Nanowerk News) Natcore Technology Inc. is pleased to announce that its research program at Rice University, under the direction of Prof. Andrew Barron, has successfully encapsulated silicon quantum dots with a uniform coating of silicon dioxide.
This represents a crucial milestone in the Company's development of an all-silicon, super-efficient tandem solar cell. To the knowledge of the company and its scientists, such an encapsulization of individual silicon nanocrystals, or quantum dots (QDs), in silicon dioxide has never before been accomplished.
The silicon dioxide coating was achieved using Rice University's patented liquid phase deposition (LPD) process, to which Natcore has an exclusive, worldwide license. As a result of this unprecedented accomplishment, Natcore can now work toward the construction of multiple layers of silicon QDs in orderly, three dimensional arrays that could more-efficiently absorb shorter wavelength light (i.e., higher-energy photons) than is possible in ordinary bulk silicon.
When added to the top of a standard silicon solar cell, such stacked arrays could significantly increase the efficiency of the silicon solar cell at a much lower cost per additional watt than that of the original cell itself. Theoretical calculations by various independent research groups and published in the open literature show that efficiencies of over 30% for tandem solar cells in terrestrial sunlight are possible.
Efficiencies of greater than 30% would represent approximately double the power output of today's commercial silicon solar cells, and would likely bridge the economic gap between solar and conventional power generation.
Tandem solar cells are a proven technology currently employed in space applications. The major issue preventing their broad use in earth-based applications has been the need to use exotic semiconducting materials for the upper layers, and the expensive, special vacuum processing technology that limits large-scale production.
In contrast, Natcore's LPD technology eliminates the need for such materials, along with their costly processing, and promises to usher in a new period of unprecedented growth in the application of solar cells for electrical power generation.
Chuck Provini, Natcore's president and CEO, notes, "This is a key achievement toward our goal of a super-efficient solar cell. By encapsulating the QDs in silicon dioxide, we hope to be able to stack them, much like ping-pong balls in a box. The resulting array promises to make a silicon tandem cell possible. We are now working diligently and aggressively toward that goal."
Mr. Provini's views are echoed by Natcore's chairman, Brien Lundin: "This breakthrough is testimony to the abilities of Prof. Barron and his team, as well as the versatility of our LPD process. These fundamental achievements could revolutionize not only solar technology, but many other important applications and industries as well."
About Natcore Technology Inc.
Natcore Technology is the exclusive licensee, from Rice University, of a thin-film growth technology enabling room-temperature growth of various silicon oxides on silicon wafers in a liquid phase deposition (LPD) process. Although the implications of this discovery for semiconductors and fiber optics are significant and wide-ranging, the technology has immediate and compelling applications in the solar sector. Specifically, the Company's LPD process could enable silicon solar cell manufacturers to significantly reduce manufacturing costs and increase throughput, and has the potential to allow, for the first time, mass manufacturing of super-efficient (30%+) tandem solar cells with double the power output of today's most efficient devices.