NREL Expands Natcoreâ€™s License To Develop Black Silicon Solar Cells
Red Bank, NJ â€”August 2, 2012 By adding new patents to its original license to Natcore Technology Inc. (TSX-V: NXT; NTCXF.PK), the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has expanded that license under which Natcore will develop and commercialize a line of black silicon products based on NREL patents.
â€œBlack siliconâ€ refers to the apparent color of the surface of a silicon wafer after it has been etched with nano-scale pores; the black color results from the absence of reflected light from the porous wafer surface.
Natcoreâ€™s antireflective coating process begins with an uncoated, textured silicon wafer. First, nanoscale pores are etched into the wafer surface, using gold or silver nanoparticles, by submerging the wafer for a few minutes in a liquid solution at room temperature. Next, using the companyâ€™s liquid phase deposition (LPD) process, Natcore scientists fill the pores and then over-coat them with silicon dioxide. This combination step both coats and passivates, thereby allowing lower reflectance.
NRELâ€™s most meaningful new black silicon patent relates to the use of copper nanoparticles in the etching process instead of nanoparticles of gold or silver.
â€œBecause copper is less expensive than the precious metals, this new patent could enable Natcore to further reduce the cost of solar cells,â€ says Natcore President and CEO Chuck Provini. â€œThis could be another step toward our goal of halving the cost and increasing the output of solar cells.â€
Natcore scientists have created a black surface on a silicon wafer with an average reflectance in the visible and near-infrared region of the solar spectrum of 0.3%, making it the â€œblackestâ€ silicon solar cell surface ever recorded. Natcore refers to this surface as â€œAbsolute Black.â€
The original NREL-Natcore license was granted in December 2011. Natcore and NREL have also entered into a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement to develop commercial prototypes that embody NRELâ€™s black silicon inventions.
NREL is the U.S. Department of Energyâ€™s primary national laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development.
NREL is operated for DOE by the Alliance for Sustainable Energy LLC.antireflective coating, solar spectrum
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