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Device-physics-accurate cost-effective cell and module test instruments

Award Information

Department of Energy
Award ID:
Program Year/Program:
2013 / SBIR
Agency Tracking Number:
Solicitation Year:
Solicitation Topic Code:
Solicitation Number:
Small Business Information
Sinton Consulting Inc Dba Sinton Instruments
4720 Walnut Street Suite 102 Boulder, CO 80301-2670
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Woman-Owned: No
Minority-Owned: No
HUBZone-Owned: No
Phase 1
Fiscal Year: 2013
Title: Device-physics-accurate cost-effective cell and module test instruments
Agency: DOE
Contract: DE-FG02-13ER90677
Award Amount: $174,690.00


Industrial cell and module tester for silicon solar cells have converged on a conventional model in which an IV curve is swept during a constant-intensity flashlamp pulse. This scheme has many technical and cost drawbacks. Sinton Instruments has invented techniques that could radically change next- generation cell and module testers in order to lower the cost while simultaneously enabling sophisticated process control based on detailed characterization of the electronic properties of the devices. These instruments would incorporate: The Suns-Voc technique: A full IV curve is constructed during a single flash at open circuit voltage. This curve gives critical device physics information on the quality of the wafer, surface passivations, as well as enabling a full energy-loss analysis including resistance and recombination effects; The constant-charge mode of multi-flash testing. This Sinton-patented technique enables fast- throughput, error-free measurement of the new generations of high-efficiency, high- capacitance solar cells with a cost effective instrument; Advanced diagnostics techniques for cell or module test that measures detailed device physics parameters of the solar cells or modules, in order to optimize the cell fabrication, module fabrication, and subsequent reliability studies. The would permit data mining with detail sufficient for cause and effect studies relating starting silicon material, process control at each step, cell performance, module performance, and reliability studies; Innovations for incorporating these measurements into testing sequences with much higher throughput than existing cell and module-test instruments, targeting 2 to 4 times conventional tools; The existing Sinton industrial systems were designed specifically for the high-efficiency niche market that makes up less than 2% of manufacturing capacity for silicon modules. The early adopters jumped to this radical new technology because conventional instruments did not work for these modules. The ability to apply this completely novel approach to measuring solar cells and modules relies on the expertise developed at Sinton Instruments in controlling the light source characteristics as well as having active electronic loads that can optimize for the specific device-physics characteristics of the target technology. The result enables process optimization reporting both the conventional nameplate characteristics simultaneously with R & amp;D-quality characterization that relates cause and effect. An enormous opportunity exists to bring these advances to the rest of the industry. The use of a common methodology at cell and module test permits precise loss analysis comparing cell to module production data. The project will have 2 parts. Reoptimize the production module testers for general applicability to all types of modules. Three generations of silicon modules made at present, with distinct characteristics. A successful implementation will enable superior device-physics tracking, throughput up to 12 modules per minute, and a capital cost less than of conventional module testers. Users would also know that this capital investment would migrate with the technology into high-efficiency, since this is proven. Production cell testers require very-high throughput. A successful implementation of this unconventional test instrument into cell test could cut testing costs by a factor of 2-4, simultaneously enabling vastly more sophisticated analysis and process control and a seamless migration to high-efficiency cells.

Principal Investigator:

Ronald Sinton

Business Contact:

Ronald A. Sinton
Small Business Information at Submission:

Sinton Instruments
4720 Walnut Street, Suite 102 Boulder, CO 80301-2670

EIN/Tax ID: 841521452
Number of Employees:
Woman-Owned: No
Minority-Owned: No
HUBZone-Owned: No