IMEC signs solar-cell agreement

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IMEC, a European research centre for nanoelectronics, has signed a bilateral cooperation agreement with Japan’s Kaneka Corporation to develop the next generation of solar cells.

The agreement will see Kaneka incorporate its European Photvoltaics Laboratory at IMEC’s facilities in Belgium to work alongside IMEC researchers in improving its existing thin-film, solar-cell technology.

The work will focus on Kaneka’s amorphous silicon microcrystalline cells (a-Si/uc-Si) and will combine IMEC’s silicon-wafer process and device technology, along with its expertise in optics and microcrystalline.

Both parties hope the collaboration will result in an industrial a-Si:H, hetero-junction-based, high-efficiency solar cell with an expected efficiency of over 20 per cent for larger industrial cells.

According to Kaneka, the agreement is part of its strategy to examine the expansion of its solar-cell manufacturing capacity to 1GW by 2015. The group hopes its European base will pave the way for a future production facility in the region and strengthen its presence in the European market.

Kimikazu Sugawara, Kaneka’s president, said: ‘IMEC was chosen as the preferred research and development partner because of its longstanding expertise and excellent track record in photovoltaics, and because of its unique knowledge and capabilities in materials processing and photonics.’

Kaneka’s European Photovoltaics Laboratory will be the first research and development laboratory from a Japanese solar-cell manufacturer outside of Japan.