TURNING SUNLIGHT INTO ELECTRICITY
It sounds so simple, but it’s been over a century in the making. Successful solar cell processing took more than 150 years, from the discovery that a chemical battery exposed to sunlight produced electricity, to becoming a well-established renewable energy source. Solar cells now power everything from calculators, to outdoor lighting, to entire communities.
At the heart of solar cell processing is a complicated three-step method, known as the photovoltaic (PV) effect. It uses semi-conductive materials like silicon, polysilicon, and PV thin film materials to convert sunlight into electricity. Solar, or photovoltaic, cells are the most important component in solar panels. As solar cell substrates become increasingly delicate, manufacturing them requires high-speed chemical processing tools offered at competitive prices.
More and more, today’s PV companies turn to Kinetics. Why? Because the company has developed various automated tools specifically for solar cell manufacturing process using leading brand components with customized PLC screen controller functions such as recipe writing and editing, data logging and other sophisticated control and monitoring functions.
Kinetics’ PV product portfolio includes tools for:
- Silicon raw materials cleaning
- Silicon substrate etching and cleaning
- Solar cell cleaning
- Etching and surface preparation
- Automated chemical processing and cleaning
From cleaning raw silicon chunks, to processing solar cell substrates before and after circuitry, Kinetics’ solar cell product line provides a seamless etch and cleaning solution. Features like ultrasonic agitation, robot-assist mechanisms, and chemical handling equipment make it possible to achieve high-volume processing of loads up to 450 lbs. and throughput volumes ranging from 600 to 2,000+.
Solar cell substrate processing and cleaning has never been simpler. Kinetics’ “Solar Queen” series of automated wet process systems are specifically designed for ease-of-use and efficiency. Operators simply load and unload carriers, and the Solar Queen control system and automated handling equipment take care of the rest, processing 100 or 200 piece loads automatically, reaching throughputs of 1600 units per hour.
“Clean” is about more than the energy produced, as Kinetics’ successful production of millions of cells clearly demonstrates.
PV processing requires increasingly delicate substrates to generate the energy output needed from installed cells. At the same time, the necessary chemical processing tools must balance the cost of ownership and operation while continuing to improve yields at every stage and step. Kinetics, as a leader in tool automation, has developed three guiding principles to help customers achieve their goals.
PRINCIPLE #1: Take on the “chunk challenge”
Etching and cleaning raw silicon “chunks” is a more significant stage than many companies anticipate. Usually requiring a dilute cleaning solution with ultrasonic agitation, this multistep processing must be both thorough and efficient. Often, the finer points of this “rough” cleaning are overlooked, including the integrity of the final rinse and dry steps.
PRINCIPLE #2: Keep it moving with the carriers
For subsequent silicon (Si) substrate processing steps performed on blank poly or monocrystaline Si substrates after wire sawing, process cassettes keep things moving. As Kinetics has discovered, the efficiency and accuracy of this step affect the outcome, whether a manually-loaded process station is used or higher volumes dictate the use of robotics: Alignment is key, flow remains important, and chemistry can be critical.
PRINCIPLE #3: Done doesn’t mean finished
After the solar cell circuitry is printed or otherwise applied onto the blank Si substrates, specialty cleaning or treatment is often mandated. Here, the pressure to achieve throughput goals can compromise processing integrity and negatively impact yields. Varying times, chemistry and handling methods helps optimize PV production, reducing the amount of burdensome rework or costly rejection of entire panels.
Kinetics has applied these principles to two platforms of tools, both the Solar Cell Process Tools as well as Solar Queen Automated Systems. Learning more about them and their ability to enhance accuracy, yield, and volume with a click here.