Ferro Electronic Materials, a leading supplier of materials forfabricating photovoltaic solar cells, has been awarded $1 million bythe Ohio Department of Development (ODOD) to develop advanceddurability sealing systems for solar cells.
In this project,Ferro will engineer a vitreous frit system to provide reliableair-tight and water-tight seals for second- and third-generationthin-film solar cells. Ferro will collaborate with the Edison WeldingInstitute, StrateNexus Technologies, and The Ohio State University, allof Columbus, Ohio, in developing, testing and commercializing this newtechnology.
If successful, the new sealing materials will enableFerro to solve a significant problem with second- and third-generationthin-film solar cells. As with all solar cells, thin-film cells requirea hermetic seal to operate reliably for their expected lifetimes of20-plus years.
This can be a problem because most currentthin-film solar cell modules are designed to be sealed with organicsealants that typically lose their hermeticity in time, especially ifexposed to sunlight containing UV radiation. The problem is aggravatedby exposure to daily and seasonal temperature fluctuations that canfurther weaken the seal.
Ferro proposes to replace the organicseal with technology similar to its glass frit sealing materialspresently used in thick-film solar cells and that are field-proven tolast well beyond the cells’ expected lifetimes. The technical challengeis that thin-film cells are extremely temperature sensitive, and thecurrent frit technology requires high firing temperatures to create theseal. The goal is to create a glass frit material that can create therequired seal at lower temperatures and that can be activated bylaser-based and ultrasonic energy systems.
"One of Ferro’s coretechnical competencies is the design and manufacture of customglasses," said Steven Florio, chief technology officer for Ferro’sElectronic, Color and Glass Materials division. "We believe thisstrength in glass technology will enable Ferro to rapidly drive thedevelopment of the frits required for this critical new application."
Fundingfor the project is provided through the Ohio Third FrontierPhotovoltaic Program, which supports research and development thataddresses the technical and cost barriers to commercialization ofphotovoltaic components and systems in Ohio. The awards are contingentupon State Controlling Board approval.
"This funding catalyzesthe transformation of cutting edge research – much of it pioneered inthe laboratories of the University System of Ohio – into successfulOhio businesses and 21st century Ohio jobs," said Eric Fingerhut,Chancellor of the Ohio Board of Regents and Chair of the Ohio ThirdFrontier Commission. "As the nation looks to renewable energies, Ohio’sposition as a leader in photovoltaic production builds a foundation forthe state’s economic future."
The Ohio Third FrontierPhotovoltaic Program accelerates the development and growth of thephotovoltaic industry in Ohio by direct financial support toorganizations seeking to: investigate near-term specific commercialobjectives with respect to products, processes, or services;commercialize new products, commercialize manufacturing processes ortechnologies, or adapt or modify existing components or systems thatcan reduce the cost of photovoltaic systems or address technical andcommercialization barriers; or demonstrate market readiness.