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This letter presents a new process for the fabrication of solar cells and modules from single crystal silicon wafers with substantially reduced silicon consumption and processing effort compared to conventional wafer-based cells. The technique of narrow trench etching in an alkaline solution is used to create a series of thin silicon strips extending vertically through the wafer. By turning the silicon strips on their side, a large increase in surface area is achieved. Individual cells fabricated using the new process have reached efficiencies up to 18.5% while a 575 cm2 module incorporating a rear reflector and a cell surface coverage of 50% has displayed an efficiency of 12.3% under standard rating conditions. The technique has the potential to reduce silicon consumption by a factor of 10 compared to standard wafer-based silicon solar cells and, therefore, to dramatically reduce the dependence to the expensive silicon feedstock.
Date of Publication: Jan. 2004