SUNNYVALE, USA: AQT Solar, a leading developer of low-cost CIGS (copper-indium-gallium-diselenide) thin-film solar cells, has achieved near world record efficiencies using an even lower cost and production friendly sputter deposited CZTS (copper-zinc-tin-sulfide) thin-film solar cell.
AQT has established that the same manufacturing-ready processes and platforms used to make AQT’s CIGS 2.0 solar cells are ideally suited for CZTS. AQT has adopted the term CIGS 3.0 to refer to its future CZTS product to reflect the broad production compatibility and similarities of the two systems.
Like their CIGS counterparts, AQT CZTS cells are manufactured as drop-in replacements for crystalline silicon cells making their adoption seamless with existing crystalline silicon module manufacturing equipment and infrastructure. The “earth abundant” raw materials comprising CZTS are substantially cheaper than those in CIGS, making it much cheaper to produce.
An added benefit of these constituents is that they are mined and available worldwide, mitigating any geopolitical influence on raw material sourcing. This will eliminate concerns such as the Indium availability and price volatility that have impacted the display and thin-film photovoltaics (TFPV) industries in the past.
A great deal of research and development has been conducted on CZTS since the mid-1990s, and CZTS thin-film solar cells made by IBM employing a complex organometallic spin coating process have recently achieved efficiencies as high as 10.4 percent. In contrast, AQT has rapidly achieved close to 10 percent efficiencies for sputtered CZTS by leveraging the manufacturing process and platform foundation established for its CIGS product.
AQT plans to have CZTS modules “under sun” later this year and actively begin the product commercialization process. By employing the same capitally-efficient platform for its CZTS product as it does for its CIGS product, AQT is further validating the flexibility and long shelf life of its equipment and manufacturing strategy.
“The founders of AQT, all of whom have previously worked in capitally intensive commodity industries, have experienced firsthand the huge disruption to business that occurs when re-capitalization is required due to technology migration and we have done everything possible to avoid this from affecting our business,” said Michael Bartholomeusz, CEO of AQT Solar.
“Early on we recognized the critical necessity to adopt a future-proofed manufacturing platform and strategy and it remains a cornerstone of our business, enabling us to easily adapt solar cell production to new, advantageous materials such as CZTS.”