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PVcomB expands CIGS solar manufacturing capability

The fully owned subsidiary of the Helmholtz Centre Berlin for Materials and Energy (HZB) for photovoltaics has commenced full operation of small solar modules based on copper indium gallium diselenide

The Berlin Competence Centre for Thin Film and Nanotechnology for Photovoltaics (PVcomB) has purchased two thin-film solar-module production tools from German firm Leybold Optics, which are now in operation.

With these inline sputter systems, PVcomB has closed the final gaps in its two research lines for thin-film silicon and CIGS solar modules, and has now commenced full operation with modules measuring 30 x 30 centimetres.

PVcomB sets sputter systems from Leybold Optics in operation. From right to left: Bernd Stannowski and Sven Ring, PVcomB, Berlin. (Picture: HZB)

"Continuous thin-film technology developments in the laboratory which must be implemented on an industrial level as quickly as possible," says Rutger Schlatmann, head of PVcomB, summing up the mission of the competence centre.

Scientists and technicians work at two research lines, focussing on the needs of industry, with the aim of solving problems related to industrial production. At the same time, alternatives arising out of basic research are developed and tested at each process and analysis stage.

The sputter systems manufactured by Leybold Optics were finally commissioned in May 2012 thus completing PVcomB’s research lines for thin-film silicon and CIGS. The competence centre is now able to perform the entire module production process, from cleaning the glass panels all the way to module encapsulation, for a glass panel size of 30 x 30 centimetres.

The first A600V7 sputter system is part of the reference line for thin-film silicon (a-Si/μc-Si), enabling PVcomB now to produce its own layers for front and back contact systems. "This has finally allowed us to close the final gap in our research line," adds Schlatmann.

The second A600V7 plays a decisive role in the reference line for CIGS. Back contacts made of molybdenum and, above all, the layers comprising copper, gallium and indium are deposited for the so-called "sequential process". In the subsequent steps of the process, these are transformed into CIGS solar modules.

The Leybold Optics systems offer great flexibility, allowing for the subsequent integration of additional components and system extensions. The use of carrier stackers for changing substrates and the ability to coat two substrates simultaneously means that automated processes can be run with a high throughput and high level of reproducibility.

"Our inline sputter systems enable us to fulfil PVcomB's stringent requirements of producing, CIGS and thin-film silicon solar modules in a state-of-the-art environment. At the same time, this cooperation has afforded us a wonderful opportunity to learn from the experience of the PVcomB research team. The resulting findings flow into our ongoing development process for the next system generation," says Patrick Binkowska, manager of the Glass & Solar Division at Leybold Optics, commenting on the commencement of the sputter system's operation by PVcomB.

Leybold Optics develops processes and manufactures complex high-end coatings. It specialises in the fields of sputtering, PEVCD, plasma assisted evaporation, automation and software in the optics and glass and solar markets. The company was acquired by Swiss group Bühler earlie
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