NanoGram Solar pitches at ThinkGreen

[San Francisco, California USA]

SilFoil™ delivers “Crystalline silicon efficiency and reliability at Thin Film manufacturing cost”.
Specialty 5 MegaWatt (MW) plant online by 1Q2010.

From NanoGram Solar at ThinkGreen

After the SoloPower at ThinkGreen Solar 2.0 Panel, NanoGram Corporation CEO Dr. Kieran Drain presented plans for the a new spinoff company called NanoGram Solar at the ThinkGreen Clean Technology & Alternative Energy Forum organized by ThinkEquity LLC.

With access to the NanoGram Intellectual Property pool, NanoGram Solar is seeking its first funding round as a standalone company. NanoGram Solar will redeploy technology enabling NanoGram’s 1999 spinoff NeoPhotonics Corporation for planar lightwave circuits to the photovoltaic solar market. NanoGram Solar’s business model is to manufacture and sell solar modules.

NanoGram Solar will produce planar precise sheets of large grain size, multicrystalline silicon (mc-Si) using a disruptive low cost approach to manufacturing combining thin film economics with the performance of crystalline silicon. NanoGram Solar claims their modules will have multicrystalline silicon efficiency bordering on monocrystalline silicon with a production cost below $1 per Watt in their first full scale 50 MW production facility around 2011.

The NanoGram Solar SilFoil (very thin mc-Si) process collapses the conventional crystalline silicon solar value chain into three steps: silane (SiH4), SilFoil, and module. The process begins with the direct conversion of silane gas into large multicrystalline silicon sheets requiring only 35 µm (micron) of silicon versus 145 micron today for SunPower cells. But NanoGram Solar is not just about reducing silicon usage.

Direct deposition and film fabrication of SilFoil also eliminates ingot production and wafer sawing reducing processing cost by 78% per NanoGram Solar.

Processing the SilFoil into a solar module reduces module assembly costs by another 38% by integrating the cell fabrication and eliminating cell stringing and tabbing.

Proprietary SilFoil Process Technologies

Laser Reactive Deposition (LRD™) deposits an oxide release layer onto a reusable ceramic substrate by direct excitation of silane with a 10.6 µm carbon dioxide laser. The ceramic substrate enables subsequent high temperature processing in sharp contrast to direct deposition of silicon on glass. Next, in line chemical vapor deposition at high temperature and throughput deposits 35 µm of silicon onto the release layer. Zone Melt Recrystallization (ZMR) of the silicon film then creates the large-grain multicrystalline silicon required for high conversion efficiency.

After the SilFoil processing has been completed, the SilFoil is laminated to glass using an encapsulant like EVA (ethylene vinyl acetate), and the ceramic substrate is released for reuse. The module is ready for back side processing.

Proprietary Cell Design and Fabrication

All backside processing is low cost, direct write, and software enabled on industry standard x-y-z laser and ink jet printing equipment without contact or hard tooling.

NanoGram’s core laser and nanoparticle ink technologies are combined to drive dopants into the SilFoil module backside to diffuse junctions with laser precision and within the material’s thermal budget. The 150 µm base to emitter pitch resides within typical 1 cm (centimeter) grain boundaries and is another proprietary key to unlocking high performance.

A directly deposited textured capping layer and rear light reflector are processed without etching in the SilFoil to improve light absorption and trapping before deposition of a back-side passivation layer. The fine pitch interconnection combines inkjet printing and laser processing to eliminate screen printing of metal contacts.

NanoGram Solar asserts “Local junctions with fine-pitch interconnect enable high efficiency while accommodating typical multicrystalline carrier lifetimes.

Proprietary Module Architecture

Extending their innovations, NanoGram Solar optimizes cell design and layout with Dynamic cell sizing and current matching (DCiM™) to compensate for process nonuniformity. A photoluminescent map of each SilFoil module’s performance is built to drive the x-y laser processing of cells. Cells are matched in current and not physical size improving module efficiency by about 1 to 2%. NanoGram Solar claims the DCiM dynamic module configuration will reduce Balance of Systems (BOS) cost via flexible current voltage configuration and is compatible with micro-inverters.

Nanogram Solar has received two public validations for their proprietary SilFoil process:

De-Risked Manufacturing Roadmap

2Q 2009 First Pre-Production Devices at Targeted Efficiencies
1Q 2010 Specialty 5 MW (MegaWatt) plant online
1Q 2011 First Full Scale 50 MW Plant Online

NanoGram Solar’s roadmap first scales today’s six (6) inch square mini modules to 30 x 60 cm off-grid modules by doubling the width of the inline deposition process used in the Specialty plant. By tiling four (4) 30 x 60 cm modules, a First Solar sized 60 x 120cm module can be assembled for initial experience with large commercial applications. As a final step, Nanogram Solar plans to double the deposition process width again to produce monolithic 60 x 120cm panels in their first full scale 50 MW plant.

The main goal of the Specialty plant is move the process into 24 x 7 (round the clock) production and qualify module product for on-grid applications over a 1.5 year ramp period. For the Specialty plant, NanoGram Solar is raising capital mid-2009. Solar has been a separate division at NanoGram for almost the past three (3) years. New funding is being sought from current investors, strategic partners, cleantech, and growth investors.

CAPEX <$1.5 per Watt

NanoGram Solar estimates no more than a $75 Million investment will be needed to construct the 50 MW full scale greenfield plant. This equates to $1.5 per Watt of production capacity. NanoGram claims the attractive capital structure for production scaling is the result of a subatmospheric deposition process followed by low cost laser and inkjet printing module processing.

Site evaluation has been completed with four (4) US states and a number of European countries under consideration. The 50 MW plant location and design are at an advanced stage.

In a slide footnote, NanoGram Solar estimates 2010 revenues of about $10 million vaulting to >$250 million in 2013.

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  2. Vikram Ravi says:

    There is nothing in this article that reports on the efficiency of the solar cell, only that their process “enables” efficiency or “improves efficiency” It might be hard to raise money without demonstrating a working cell.

  3. admin says:

    Nanogram Solar did not mention an efficiency number. Check the Picasa slideshow for the SilFoil efficiency bubble around 16%. All Nanogram Solar said was mc-Si efficiency bordering on monocrystalline silicon.

    I believe Nanogram Solar mentioned they are making the six (6) inch square mini modules in 8 to 10 unit batches.

  4. Vikram Ravi says:

    This investor needs more specifics, actual efficiencies and deltas, process capabilities, demonstration of robustness and repeatabilty, and a roadmap for production. Otherwise, the slides look like hopeful hype. Others, with manufacturing lines, already claim $.80/W modules, which indicate its a catch-up game already.

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