The current way most manufacturers make silicon based solar cells is to take blocks of silicon and cut them into wafers 200 micrometers think. The cutting process ends up wasting about half of the silicon. Any thinner than 200 micrometers, and the wafers tend to get brittle. What Twin Creeks has developed allows them to make strong 20 micrometer think wafers with hardly any waste. By using their newly designed particle accelerator (the Hyperion 3 ion cannon), they bombard three millimeter thick disks of crystalline silicon with a high energy beam of hydrogen ions.
When the wafer is heated, the
Overall, the Twin Creeks’ process reduces the amount of silicon needed to make solar cells by about 90%, and they are just as efficient as standard silicon based solar cells. The company is saying that the total cost of manufacturing is reduced to about 40 cents per watt, compared to about 80 cents per watt for the cheapest silicon based solar cells being made now. Twin Creeks says that their process can be used with existing production lines with only minor changes, and that they want to sell their machines to companies that are already making solar cells instead of making their own. Their goal is to have half a dozen to a dozen of these machines in place and operating with solar cell manufacturers by this time next year. Each Hyperion machine is capable of producing enough silicon layers for 1.5 million solar cells each year.