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Fast, Low Kerf-loss Wafering of Silicon Ingots for Low-cost Solar Power

Award Information
Agency: Department of Energy
Branch: N/A
Contract: DE-SC0020854
Agency Tracking Number: 252182
Amount: $206,499.00
Phase: Phase I
Program: STTR
Solicitation Topic Code: 11b
Solicitation Number: DE-FOA-0002146
Solicitation Year: 2020
Award Year: 2020
Award Start Date (Proposal Award Date): 2020-06-29
Award End Date (Contract End Date): 2021-02-28
Small Business Information
2778 North 600 East
Lehi, UT 84043-3474
United States
DUNS: 080582838
HUBZone Owned: No
Woman Owned: No
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged: No
Principal Investigator
 Gregory Nielson
 (505) 999-6963
Business Contact
 Gregory Nielson
Phone: (505) 999-6963
Research Institution
 Brigham Young University
 Stephen Schultz
2778 North 600 East
Lehi, UT 84043-3474
United States

 (801) 422-1693
 Nonprofit College or University

Silicon wafers are the single largest cost component within solar photovoltaic modules. To maintain the cost reduction targets outlined in industrial roadmaps, wafer costs need to be significantly reduced. Reducing the cost of wafers requires reducing the kerf-loss and wafer thickness while increasing throughput in tools for processing silicon ingots into wafers. The proposed technology augments the ability of wire electrical discharge machining to process silicon ingots into wafers. The capabilities of this approach will exceed the capabilities of the incumbent diamond wire saw technology by 2-5X on throughput and reduce both kerf-loss and wafer thickness by 60-70%. This will result in a silicon photovoltaic wafer cost reduction of as much as 60-70%. The Phase I work will experimentally demonstrate the fundamental science behind the proposed technology and demonstrate two key metrics of the technology, specifically wafer cutting speed and cut surface roughness. Additional work will be focused on verifying the technical requirements of the industry for the proposed technology. Any industry that utilizes semiconductor wafers would benefit from the proposed technology. Industries that would benefit include silicon integrated circuits, silicon carbide and gallium nitride power electronics, microelectromechanical sensors, light emitting diodes, compound semiconductor multi-junction solar cells for satellites, and many others.

* Information listed above is at the time of submission. *

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