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NREL, HelioVolt Receive Technology Transfer Award for PV Manufacturing Technology

October 7, 2008

A revolutionary thin-film photovoltaic (PV) manufacturing process developed through a partnership between the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and HelioVolt Corp. has received an “Excellence in Technology Transfer” Award from the Federal Laboratory Consortium for Technology Transfer (FLC).  The award was presented on Sept. 11, 2008, in Denver, Colo., at the FLC’s Mid-Continent & Far West Regional Annual Meeting.

The inherent advantage of thin films is that they can be manufactured quickly and at a fraction of the cost of crystalline silicon—$1 of crystalline silicon could be replaced with $.03 of copper-indium-gallium selenide (CIGS) thin film for the same electrical output.

To help realize the full commercial potential of CIGS thin-film, NREL and HelioVolt developed a hybrid process that overcomes many of the manufacturing challenges with CIGS.

The manufacturing process combines NREL’s non-vacuum ink deposition method with HelioVolt’s rapid reactive bonding technique. NREL’s method for manufacturing hybrid CIGS thin films uses ink-jet and ultrasonic spray technologies to precisely apply metal-organic inks in separate layers directly onto a variety of substrates. Then, HelioVolt’s proprietary processing system quickly bonds the film layers under heat and pressure forming large-grain CIGS crystals. Compared to others, this system takes only a few seconds instead of hours at substantially lower temperatures.

Hybrid CIGS technology has many applications including PV modules, panels, and systems to supply electricity for homes, buildings, and power plants. It’s also a very promising technology for building-integrated PV because hybrid CIGS materials can be deposited onto many common building materials. With building-integrated PV, the thin films are integrated directly into a buildings structure, effectively becoming part of the building material.

NREL’s and HelioVolt’s hybrid CIGS PV technology has also received a 2008 R&D 100 Award.