Massachusetts-based 1366 Technologies has announced a series of new performance records for its kerfless, drop-in 156mm multi-crystalline wafers, including a 19.1% result on an industrial line of Hanwha Q CELLS.
The kerfless solar silicon production method eliminates a costly part of the solar silicon wafering process, namely, the wasted silicon saw dust (kerf) that is part of the conventional ingot wafering step. However, silicon prices have dropped dramatically over the past three years and some kerfless companies have ceased operating, namely Twin Creeks and Ampulse.
Hanwha has achieved an average cell efficiency of 19.0% at its headquarters in Germany using 1366’s Direct Wafer technology with Hanwha Q CELLS’ Q.ANTUM. The companies state these results have been independently tested and verified by Fraunhofer ISE.
For those who are unclear about this methodology, the following video from 1366 Technologies helps explain some of the anticipated cost efficiencies from this manufacturing process.
“The disruptive nature of the Direct Wafer process is not only evident in the cost and material savings it provides, but in its ability to break the technology limitations of conventional wafer manufacturing. The rapid and significant efficiency gains we’ve achieved will be further increased by new wafer features made possible only with our process,” said Frank van Mierlo, 1366 Technologies CEO in a press announcement. “We intend to change the way the industry thinks about wafers. There are more gains to be had, and we have a clear roadmap to achieve 20% cell efficiency.”
According to the company, the 1366 team currently has a manufacturing hub of three operational furnaces at a demonstration facility in Bedford, MA. This means each furnace is capable of throughput in excess of 5 MW of wafers per year– on par with standard directional solidification furnaces, but requiring half the space and delivering a 60% reduction in energy consumption per wafer.
The company is targeting a first commercial-scale facility with 50 Direct Wafer furnaces, bringing production capacity to 250 MW of wafers per year.
“These most recent achievements are exciting because they were attained in industrial lines, not a lab. They represent a real leap forward,” said van Mierlo. “We are well on our way to producing high performance wafers at a cost of less than $0.40 each at GW scale.”
A production achievement like this will have a significant and welcomed impact on future pricing for solar panels.
Daniel Jeong, Global R&D chief at Hanwha Q CELLS, added this perspective: “These latest results demonstrate the potential in combining 1366´s Direct Wafer Technology with our unique Q.ANTUM technology. Together they can push the efficiency limits of multi-crystalline solar cell technology while at the same time reducing the cost significantly.”
Earlier this month, 1366 announced it will build its 250 MW commercial facility in Genesee County, New York. The facility will initially produce 50 million wafers annually and eventually scale to 3 GW of capacity, manufacturing 600 million wafers each year.
1366 Technologies’ Direct Wafer process forms multi-crystalline wafers directly from molten silicon at an estimated price tag of half the cost.
Graphic via 1366 Technologies