Many new solar energy companies are working on silicon alternatives, but 1366 Technologies is taking a different approach— the MIT-founded company has invented both a new cell architecture for multi-crystalline solar cells and a manufacturing process to lower the cost of the cells. The process is so effective that 1366 believes it can make solar cost-competitive with coal by 2012. And with this week’s opening of the company’s solar manufacturing facility, that vision may actually come true.
According to 1366 Technologies President Frank van Mierlo, current silicon cells are practically begging for improvement. “The cheapest cell on the market is the multicrystalline solar cell. Notice that it’s blue—it should be black,” he said. “We believe we can do a better job of trapping and capturing light.”
1366 Technologies’ new cell architecture, which was developed by MIT Professor Emanuel Sachs, improves surface texture and metallization enough to enhance silicon solar cell efficiency by 25 percent while also lowering costs.
Additionally, the company has pioneered a light-capturing ribbon that increases solar module efficiency by reflecting light back onto the surface of the cell. The ribbon can recover up to 80 percent of the photocurrent from light that strikes the ribbon—a vast improvement over the 5 percent recovery rate of standard interconnect wires.
The 1366 pilot plant will run for nine months, at which point a full-scale manufacturing plant will be readied. The company hopes to break ground on the larger plant sometime in the next calendar year.
“I genuinely believe this is the problem of our century, and this is arguably the most challenging and rewarding effort one can undertake, ” van Mierlo said. “I’m glad that a lot of very smart people feel the same way.”
Photo Credit: 1366 Technologies
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