Despite historically low silicon prices, the silicon wafer still comprises roughly 15% of the total PV module cost. We are assisting our industrial partners to reduce this amount by up to an order of magnitude, via “kerfless” wafering approaches that transform silicon feedstock directly into wafers. Despite projected cost savings, kerfless technologies face technical challenges, including the demonstration of repeatable, high-performance substrates at high growth rates. Successfully overcoming these challenges could enable a PV technology with silicon performance and reliability, with thin-film cost structure.
Innovations: The PVLab’s key contributions in this area include: (i) Identifying key performance-limiting defects in several kerfless silicon materials; (ii) co-developing defect mitigation strategies that improve bulk lifetimes up to one millisecond, sufficient to support >23% solar-cell devices. This work occurs in close collaboration with industrial partners.
 D.M. Powell et al., submitted (2013).