NREL And Natcore Ink New Black Silicon Solar Deal

The U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) will join  solar tech company Natcore in a cooperative research deal to increase the efficiency of solar panels the incorporate black silicon layering.
 
The Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) will see both parties spend $150,000 with the aim of reducing the cost of solar cells by 2 – 3% and to increase solar panel energy output from 3 – 10% over the course of a day without the aid of a solar tracking mechanism. 
 
If both parties agree, the terms of the agreement could change, with more money flowing into research and an extension on the initial duration of one year.
 
In December 2011 we reported on Natcore winning the rights to commercialise a line of black silicon solar products based on NREL patents. It was a win-win deal for both parties: NREL needed unrestricted access to Natcore’s liquid phase deposition (LPD) technology, which is necessary to allow for the unimpeded flow of energy trapped within the pores of black solar cells.
 
R&D Magazine awarded the black silicon technology an R&D 100 Award in 2010, hailing it as one of the top 100 technological innovations of the year.
 
NREL holds a world record efficiency level for a black silicon solar cell of 18.6%, but this was achieved without LPD technology – instead NREL scientists used thermal oxidation, an energy-intensive process which involves heating the cell to over 1,000 degrees C. 
 
Although the highest efficiency achieved using black silicon and LPD tops out at 16.5%, Natcore and NREL researchers say the idea is feasible, and believe the combination of the two technologies could significantly exceed NREL’s record cell efficiency. 
 
"Our technology will create a new American industry," says Natcore President and CEO Chuck Provini. "We’ve been trying for two years to get financial support from the Department of Energy. This is a meaningful first step."