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III-V solar cell firms target 150 mm substrates

Emcore and Spectrolab are planning to manufacture cells on larger germanium wafers to help meet the anticipated growth of GaAs-based solar power generation.

Seeking to reduce the cost of electricity produced by concentrating photovoltaics, Spectrolab is planning to increase the size of the germanium substrates it uses in manufacturing III-V solar cells.

According to Geoff Kinsey, the technical lead for concentrating photovoltaic (CPV) products at the US company, Spectrolab will move from 100 mm to 150 mm substrates and aims to use them in production by 2010.

Automated welders and testers are already in place to support the move, Kinsey said at the CPV Today conference in Madrid on April 1. Sources at the conference said that Emcore will be matching Spectrolab s move, so that both companies will be able to produce more cells per wafer.

However, Spectrolab will only buy the MOCVD reactors it needs to make triple junction cells on larger wafers if it receives sufficient orders from manufacturers of CPV modules and systems.

Kinsey said that Spectrolab s cells currently cost its customers around $0.9 per watt of power generated. If the process overhaul proceeds as the company plans the additional output will see this figure drop to $0.4 per watt in 2010.

In response to this, David Danzilio, vice president and general manager of Emcore Photovoltaics, told compoundsemiconductor.net that his company s cells are already available at $0.37 per watt for 100MW quantities.

Although Emcore has only announced one order of that size (see related stories), solar module and system makers at the conference confirmed that Emcore s cells are routinely cheaper than Spectrolab s.

Also present in Madrid was Sylarus Technologies, a startup that claims to be a source for the germanium substrates used by Emcore and Spectrolab in their cells.

Based in St George, Utah, between Emcore in New Mexico and Spectrolab in California, the company relies heavily on the crystal growth know-how of Grant Fines. Fines, Sylarus director of process engineering, says the company is already producing 6-inch germanium wafers.

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