NXT.V Natcore Technology
Posted: Tuesday Jun 4 6:33:21AM 2013
Natcore Makes Major Advancements In Black Silicon, Discovers Compelling New Application
Black Silicon and Selective Emitter Have Been Prime Goals Of Solar Industry For Years
Solar Science Pioneer Joins Natcore's Advisory Board
RED BANK, N.J., April 11, 2013 /CNW/ - Natcore Technology Inc. (TSX-V: NXT; NTCXF.PK) has made major strides in advancing its black silicon solar cells to commercial levels of efficiency and, as part of its development process, has discovered that its technology could finally provide the industry with a low-cost selective emitter application.
Natcore's initial black silicon solar cells, the first full-size black silicon cells produced using a low-cost, scalable manufacturing process, had efficiencies of approximately 1%, as compared with average efficiencies for commercial cells of approximately 17%.
Through refinement of its in-lab production process, and despite the lack of a key piece of equipment, Natcore's technical staff has been able to achieve efficiencies as high as 14.7%.
These results have been achieved without an adequate diffusion furnace to control phosphorus diffusion into the solar cells' silicon surfaces. Natcore has now obtained and installed a fully capable diffusion furnace, with commissioning of this crucial piece of equipment having begun the week of April 1 . The company's technical staff is confident that this diffusion furnace will allow for significant improvements in the efficiencies of its black silicon cells.
Importantly, Natcore's staff has discovered that its proprietary liquid phase deposition (LPD) may make a low-cost selective emitter application available to the solar industry. Selective emitter technology is a long-sought enhancement to solar cells in which the regions under a cell's front contacts are heavily doped to improve the electrical connection, while the remaining emitter surface is lightly doped to promote better efficiency.
Selective emitter applications have been proven to significantly increase solar cell efficiencies, but a low-cost, highly scalable process has remained elusive to industry. Theoretically, Natcore's LPD process could make this achievable, and early results from experiments using the company's newly installed diffusion furnace have been very encouraging.
Because of these positive results, Natcore is now rapidly moving to protect its selective emitter intellectual property, and is in the process of filing provisional patents.
"The solar industry has been clamoring for a selective emitter application that is cost-effective because of its demonstrated improvement to cell efficiencies," notes Natcore's CEO, Chuck Provini. "In fact, once Dr. Daniele Margadonna joined our Science Advisory Board and learned of our plans to install a new diffusion furnace, he immediately urged us to simultaneously pursue a selective emitter approach. I'm pleased to say that we were very quickly able to demonstrate the efficacy of our technology toward this crucial and valuable application."
Natcore's black silicon and selective emitter applications are not mutually exclusive; in fact, they are synergistic. Indeed, the envisioned production process would allow both of these important improvements to be seamlessly inserted into a solar cell manufacturing line.
"Combining Natcore's black silicon technology with our groundbreaking selective emitter technology could raise today's commercial solar cell efficiencies to new high levels, while still lowering the cost per watt," says Natcore's Chief Technology Officer, Dr. Dennis Flood . "Solar cell manufacturers are aggressively seeking easy-to-implement production steps that will improve their product and profitability without having to raise their prices. Natcore's combination of selective emitter and black silicon technologies promises to do just that."
Natcore also announced today that, after conducting due diligence into the company's technology, solar industry pioneer Dr. David Carlson has joined the company's Science Advisory Board.
A physicist with a worldwide reputation in photovoltaics and materials science, Dr. Carlson served as the chief scientist of BP Solar until his recent retirement.
In 1974, Dr. Carlson invented the amorphous silicon solar cell at RCA Laboratories, and was the first to demonstrate that hydrogenated amorphous silicon could be doped either p- or n-type and could be used to form a semiconductor junction.
Dr. Carlson was a co-recipient of the 1984 Morris N. Liebmann Award (IEEE) "for crucial contributions to the use of amorphous silicon in low-cost, high-performance photovoltaic solar cells." For his outstanding contributions in the field of solar energy, he has also received the Walton Clark Medal from the Franklin Institute, the William R. Cherry Award from the IEEE, and the Karl W. Boer Medal from the International Solar Energy Society and the University Delaware.
Dr. Carlson is a fellow of the IEEE and has been a member of the American Physical Society, the American Vacuum Society, and Sigma Xi. He has published more than 150 technical papers, has been issued 26 U.S. patents, and has eight patents pending. He is listed in Who's Who in America.
Dr. Carlson received a B.S. in Physics from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and a PhD in Physics from Rutgers University. He served as a U.S. Army captain in Pleiku, Vietnam in 1969 and 1970.
Dr. Carlson joins Dr. Daniele Margadonna , Chief Technology Officer of MX Group SpA, on Natcore's Science Advisory Board.
"These two scientists, along with our co-founders Dr. Andy Barron and Dr. Dennis Flood and our Director of Research, Dr. David Levy , give us a brain trust that in my opinion is unsurpassed in the solar industry," notes Brien Lundin, Natcore's Chairman. "Because of our recent advancements and expanding scientific and technical resources, we are also expanding our space at Eastman Business Park five-fold, to 20,000 square feet, in preparation for the progression of our technology from the lab to manufacturing facilities."
Statements in this press release other than purely historical factual information, including statements relating to revenues or profits, or Natcore's future plans and objectives, or expected sales, cash flows, and capital expenditures constitute forward-looking statements. Forward-looking statements are based on numerous assumptions and are subject to all of the risks and uncertainties inherent in Natcore's business, including risks inherent in the technology history. There can be no assurance that such forward-looking statements will prove to be accurate, as actual results and future events could differ materially from those anticipated in such statements. Accordingly, readers should not place undue reliance on such statements. Except in accordance with applicable securities laws, Natcore expressly disclaims any obligation to update any forward-looking statements or forward-looking statements that are incorporated by reference herein.
Neither TSX Venture Exchange nor its Regulation Services Provider (as that term is defined in the policies of the TSX Venture Exchange) accepts responsibility for the adequacy or accuracy of this release.
Posted: Saturday Jan 19 7:18:50PM 2013
Natcore Technology Appoints Prominent Italian Solar Scientist to Head New Advisory Board
RED BANK, N.J., Jan. 18, 2013 /CNW/ - Dr. Daniele Margadonna, Chief Technology Officer of MX Group SpA, has been selected to chair a new advisory board being formed by Natcore Technology Inc. (TSX-V: NXT; NTCXF.PK). The appointment is effective immediately.
Headquartered in Villasanta, near Milan, MX Holding is the holding company of an Italian group with international exposure in the solar photovoltaic industry. MX Holding has extensive experience in the planning and construction of turnkey photovoltaic plants. In 2010, the group registered sales of 155 million.
Dr. Margadonna is one of the most renowned solar scientists in Europe. He is particularly expert in three key areas that are of special interest to Natcore:
- Selective emitter concept, a process for putting front contacts on a solar cell that could improve its efficiency up to 2.0%.
- Back side passivation, the process of filling dangling atomic bonds on the rear surface of solar cells and reducing the number of defects that always exist in the upper region of the cell body. It is critical to enabling production of long-term, high-performance silicon solar cells.
- Epitaxial growth, a new technology for the production of wafers with reusable silicon substrates.
"The solar industry needs these technologies in order to lower costs and improve efficiencies," says Chuck Provini, Natcore's president and CEO. "With Dr. Margadonna on board, we plan to hire additional teams of scientists to further develop each of them."
"We came to know and respect Dr. Margadonna in 2011, when we discussed a joint venture agreement with MX Solar," says Provini. "Now we're beginning to lay groundwork for our marketing efforts in Europe, and we realize that Daniele's vast experience, his contacts in Europe's leading solar countries, and his insights into commercialization would be invaluable to us. We are elated that he has agreed to join us."
"This is a dream opportunity for a solar scientist," says Dr. Margadonna. "I enjoy working with Dr. Dennis Flood [Natcore's Chief Technology Officer]. I'm excited about having access to Natcore's intellectual property. And the prospect of working on black silicon under Natcore's license with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory is exhilarating."
Dr. Margadonna earned a Bachelor's Degree in Physical Chemistry at University of Rome, where he also completed doctorate and postgraduate studies in Radiochemistry. Following R&D positions at the Italian National Research Council, ENI Groupe, and Eurosolare, he established E.T.AE, a consulting company focused on photovoltaic technologies. At E.T.AE, he fulfilled consultancy contracts for companies in Italy, Namibia, Norway, India, Switzerland, and Sweden.
Dr. Margadonna has received the Philip Morris Prize for Scientific and Technological Innovation. He is author or co-author of more than 40 scientific publications and six patents in the PV sector.
Posted: Saturday Dec 29 8:29:44PM 2012
We are moving some of our work out from under the laboratory hood.
We have just turned a major corner in our march toward revenue: We have produced a complete black silicon solar cell at our own lab.
So we’re moving our black silicon technology into the design, testing and modification stages in a manufacturing environment.
Until now, we have outsourced some of the work on our black silicon cell, but our recent capital injection has enabled us to obtain the equipment and the people to complete all of the requisite functions internally. So we will now accelerate our pace with National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) to maximize the efficiency and power output of this unique solar cell.
That’s not the only technology on which we are moving forward. For the first half of 2013, our “to do” list includes these goals:
· Hire additional scientists and technicians.
· Produce a solar panel from black silicon cells made in our own lab.
· Complete a second-generation AR-Box™. This solar cell processing station will be designed to produce black silicon solar cell wafers in a pilot line role in existing solar cell manufacturing facilities. Pending a successful testing outcome, we then hope to sell the machine to a Chinese cell manufacturer who has been sending us their cells to coat, test and optimize. As soon as we can put AR-Box into manufacturers’ hands we can turn on the faucets of chemical sales and royalty revenues, which will be our primary sources of income.
We have moved black silicon higher on our work schedule because we see it as our most immediate source of revenue. But we certainly haven’t forgotten our other technologies.
For example, we’ve made interesting progress on our tandem solar cells, which we continue to believe will change the world.
Tandem cells consist of up to three cells arranged one atop the other. Natcore plans to develop a two-junction tandem solar cell first. The two-cell tandem device starts with an ordinary silicon solar cell on the bottom. A cell interconnect comes next, then a second cell made of silicon quantum dots. This solar cell is tuned to absorb light from the middle of the spectrum to the blue end of the spectrum. The device is then finished with back and front contacts and can be up to 30% efficient. The two-junction tandem cell fabrication process can be added easily near the end of a standard silicon cell process line, and would effectively increase the line’s megawatt per year output by as much as 60% at a reduced cost per watt.
Natcore's edge in this process is the ability to embed the two types of silicon quantum dots (positive and negative, or P and N) in the top cell within a layer of silicon dioxide using our liquid-phase film growth process. (All other attempts to create viable tandem cells have used vacuum deposition techniques that are expensive and do not allow independent control over the formation of the quantum dots and the way they are arranged.)
The next step up in efficiency is a three-junction tandem solar cell. This sort of device is commonly used on space satellites but in its present form is far too expensive to be used terrestrially. Natcore’s LPD technology allows the top two cells of this device to be made from quantum dots instead of the very expensive space-qualified material now used. The three-junction tandem cell will be made by growing two separate silicon quantum dot solar cells, one on top of the other, on a silicon solar cell substrate using Natcore’s LPD technology. The efficiency of this device would exceed 35%.
We have identified three important phases that must be completed before we can commercialize a three-junction tandem solar cell:
Phase I: Develop an economically viable process for making embedded quantum dots that are photo-responsive. We have already demonstrated that we can do so.
Phase II: Create both N and P type quantum dots so that we can create a junction. We’re working to control the doping. (Doping is adding an impurity to a surface to produce a desired electrical characteristic.)
Phase III: Optimize the contact. We will begin work on Phase III as soon as Phase II is completed.
We believe that a commercial device is 18-24 months away.
Building on the same technology, our roll-to-roll solar cell is following a similar path, but with some serendipitous evolution: We now believe that we can integrate a single junction tandem cell with a roll-to-roll solar cell. That work will yield the ultimate: a dual junction, all-quantum dot tandem solar cell with a roll-to-roll configuration. It will combine the lower cost of a roll-to-roll cell with the increased efficiency (30% or more) of a tandem cell. To reach that goal, we’re working on a way to replace the bottom silicon cell with a layer of different quantum dots.
We continue to receive media attention, particularly from the solar trade journals, which are particularly important at this stage in our development. This, in conjunction with our state-of-the-art laboratory in Rochester, has moved us closer to manufacturing partners even as we move a bit further away from under the laboratory hood.
I would like to assure everyone, however, that even though we are being introduced to many opportunities, we remain totally focused on the solar arena, particularly the tandem solar cell. The other applications, which are closer to commercialization, help pay the bills and reduce the amount of dilution that might arise through financing.
Posted: Wednesday Dec 12 7:13:34AM 2012
To be Made in America, the Second-Generation AR-Box™ Solar Cell Processing Station Will Have Black Silicon Capability
Red Bank, NJ — (December 4, 2012) — Natcore Technology Inc. (TSX-V: NXT; NTCXF.PK) has commissioned the construction of an upgraded AR-Box™ solar cell processing station that will include black silicon capability.
Like the original AR-Box™, this second-generation device will be manufactured by MicroTech Systems, Inc., of Fremont, CA, a 12-year-old Silicon Valley company that designs and manufactures wet-bench manufacturing equipment for solar, LED, semiconductor, biomedical, data storage and other high technology applications.
Although Natcore has negotiated a Chinese joint venture that is intended to provide AR-Box™ equipment for the Chinese market, Natcore chose to produce this new machine in the United States.
“We decided to produce it here because of MicroTech’s proven expertise. They should be able to complete the re-engineering and other improvements with reliability and speed,” says Chuck Provini, Natcore’s President and CEO. “Speed is particularly important, because as soon as we can put these machines into manufacturers’ hands we can turn on the faucets of chemical sales and royalty revenues.”
Under the terms of Natcore’s agreement, MicroTech will also be licensed to sell AR-Box™ equipment to North American solar cell manufacturers.
Similar to the first-generation AR-Box™, the new machine will be semi-automated. But unlike the first AR-Box™, this second-generation processing station will be designed to produce black silicon solar cell wafers in a pilot line role in existing solar cell manufacturing facilities.
Natcore expects that the new AR-Box™ will be completed in the first quarter of 2013. Pending a successful testing outcome, Natcore then hopes to sell the machine to its first customer. Natcore remains in close contact with potential customers as it refines the capabilities of its recently developed black silicon solar cells.
On October 25, 2012, Natcore announced that its scientists have created the world's first black silicon solar cell using processes amenable to low-cost mass production. The company’s technical staff continues to refine the production process and improve the performance of its black silicon cells.
“It is precisely due to the progress we are making in our lab that we are now confident in commissioning the next generation of the AR-Box™ system,” notes Brien Lundin, Natcore’s Chairman. “We anticipate our first AR-Box™ sales shortly after we are able to demonstrate the potentially significant cost and performance advantages projected for our black silicon solar cells.”
Natcore believes that the projected higher energy output of black silicon solar cells, combined with their lower production cost using the Company’s technology, could quickly make black silicon the global solar technology of choice.
Posted: Friday Jul 13 2:17:32AM 2012
When Solar 'Crossover' Hits, the World Will Quake
BOSTON (TheStreet) -- The most important financial event of this decade will be called "crossover." That's the point at which solar energy becomes cheaper than fossil fuel energy.
Crossover will transform energy economics. It puts a thumb down on energy prices. When costs for exploiting a fuel source go above the crossover price, that fuel source becomes uneconomic, as solar cell production scales to meet it.
Crossover happens in different places, in different ways, partly because the economics of solar and fossil fuel energy are different:
- With solar, you buy and install a panel. That's your capital investment. That panel produces energy over some useful life. Once you have accounted for your capital costs, any additional energy becomes free if you maintain the panel and it keeps working.
- With fossil fuels, you first buy and install systems for burning fuel, then buy fuel. The first cost is capitalized (and relatively minor), the second is expensed (and subject to change).
When critics charge that solar is "uneconomic," what they mean is that the capital cost of the panel, spread over its useful life, won't produce as much energy as fossil fuels would at current prices. But critics can't assure current prices. Fuel prices fluctuate.
Solar panels installed last year continue to produce this year. The amortized cost of that power may fall below current fuel prices, or may sit above them. Subsidies are used to lower the effective cost of solar capital, but once that panel is installed it's going to produce whether or not the subsidy remains in place.
Right now, it is assumed that the cost of panels, amortized over their life, will produce electricity at a net cost higher than juice bought from the grid. That's a big assumption, but it's what the market thinks. In other words, solar can't exist without subsidies.
This subsidy battle has moved to states and localities. States and localities with subsidy programs are good markets for solar panel makers. Until crossover, it's this "buy side" of the market that has the profit -- demand has to be pulled when your costs exceed the competition's. The hope of bulls in companies like First Solar(FSLR) is that subsidies can assure sales until crossover is achieved.
What can upset the balance is new technology that draws power from light outside the visible spectrum, a fuel source now being wasted. The problem is always moving new technology into production.
So the big news today comes from a very small company called NatCore, based in Red Bank, N.J., and traded in Toronto under the symbol NXT.
NatCore calls its technology "black silicon" and deploys it through a Liquid Phase Deposition (LPD) process that may be compatible with current thin-film manufacturing. It's now testing this compatibility with five companies, two in North America, two in China and one in Europe.
Black silicon brings yields on solar systems from 17% to 30% by absorbing all light spectrum into a cell, using carbon nanotubes. It was created by Andrew Barron of Rice University, who serves as a consultant to the company.
My point today is not that you should sell the cat and buy NatCore. There are, in fact, dozens of small companies like NatCore, at various stages in the research, discovery and commercialization process. NatCore, in fact, might find itself highly dependent on the work of high school students like Neerja Aggarwal, an intern at Baron's lab, developing ways to mass-produce nanotubes efficiently.
My point is that not all these efforts are doomed to failure, that one, or more, will succeed in transforming solar economics. GE and the Department of Energy expect crossover with fossil fuels to occur in 2015 or 2016, depending on energy prices and changing technology.
Many believe that solar crossover with nuclear happened two years ago. Seen many new nuclear plants?
This industry is not blowing smoke. Crossover is coming. Be aware of that as you consider all your energy investments -- in fact, all your investments. Because once crossover happens, we go from an age of scarcity to one of abundance, and everything changes.
Disclosure: The writer owns no stocks in the companies mentioned (but he did graduate from Rice University in 1977).
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