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Latest Innovation Could Be A Game Changer For Solar Cell Manufacturing

Solar photovoltaics can generate clean electricity, but until recently one major barrier to greater adoption is the fact that solar panels have been prohibitively expensive.

In recent years there have been technological advances in photovoltaic cells’ efficiency, and increased production has brought down their cost. But they remain relatively expensive in large part because fully half of the costly silicon wafers at the heart of solar cells are destroyed during production.

Now researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Research (ISE) in Freiburg, Germany, have developed a technology that cuts these losses in half and, at the same time, reduces fabrication energy costs by 80 percent.

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Making silicon wafers requires a lot of time and energy, and the silicon waste only adds to the expense. Silicon costs about $17 per kilogram, meaning that about $9 worth of silicon is wasted in making solar cells because the process ruins approximately half the silicon.

But the Fraunhofer researchers say they’ve solved both the waste and energy problems. “[W]e are reducing...


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