Solar cells made of crystalline silicon: successful mainstream thanks to intense research and development

Today, most solar cells are made of crystalline silicon and are produced mainly in the huge factories of China and South-East Asia. An international community of researchers, together with dedicated development efforts, are keeping crystalline silicon in the mainstream. This industry is being scaled-up fast and cells are becoming cheaper and cheaper. It therefore becomes harder and harder for alternative cell materials to enter this mainstream.

In this presentation, you get an overview on where the mainstream industry is heading to and what the presently perceived conditions are for research ideas or new inventions so they have a chance to enter the mainstream in near future.

Pietro Altermatt is the Principal Scientist of Trina Solar, one of the leading solar cell factories in China. In the 1990ies, he contributed to the world record cell efficiencies of Si solar cells at the University of NSW in Sydney, and afterwards was leading a research group at Hannover University in Germany to assist the German solar cell industry. In recent years, he has worked at Trina and been contributing to Trina’s world record cell efficiencies of industrial cells, which are very similar in design to the record cells of the 1990ies. He has experienced how new ideas were generated at universities, how such ideas were developed into applications, and how they entered the mainstream; or failed to enter the mainstream due to too strict secrecy, intellectual property issues or technical pitfalls, or simply because they turned out to be too expensive.