Fraunhofer ISE Team Wins Science4Life Energy Cup
The planned spin-off “PV2Plus” of the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE is among the recipients of the Science4Life Energy Cup in the concept phase. At the awards ceremony on March 2, 2021, the PV2Plus research team was awarded for their development of a patented, low-cost electroplating process which will enable solar cell manufacturers to replace conventional silver contacts with copper contacts. This process can help solve the problem of silver availability and reduce costs for solar cell contacting and thus lead to increased solar cell production which is urgently needed for the energy transition. The project team will receive intensive coaching and will be working with industry experts to optimize its business plan.
"The premiered submissions are very innovative. I am very confident that several successful companies will emerge from them in the next few years," said Dr. Philipp Nimmermann, State Secretary in the Hessian Ministry of Economics, Energy, Transport and Housing, at the awards ceremony.
The four members of the PV2plus team, made up of Dr. Markus Glatthaar, Thibaud Hatt and Leonard Tutsch (all from Fraunhofer ISE) and Dr. Katharina Franziska Braig (external), were able to build on their previous success in the first round the Sciences4Life Energy Cup.
This idea is rooted in the fact that solar cell production accounts for 10 percent of today’s global silver demand. This means that global silver supplies are becoming a bottleneck that hinders the necessary growth of the solar industry. In order to save the increasingly valuable and scarce silver needed for the production of silicon heterojunction (SHJ) solar cells, the PV2plus team began work to replace screen-printed silver contacts with copper plated contacts. "We use aluminum as a conductive masking layer for the electroplating process. This not only reduces material costs in solar cell production but also is more environmentally friendly. There is no organically contaminated wastewater produced and, in addition, the aluminum can be completely recycled," explains Dr. Markus Glatthaar, department head of Advanced Development for Highly Efficient Silicon Solar Cells at Fraunhofer ISE.
The contacts produced in the laboratory using this process outperform the reference contacts made of silver in some key aspects such as conductivity and the electrical contact to the solar cell surface. The next goal is to demonstrate the individual process steps on industrial production equipment in cooperation with equipment manufacturers. Currently PV2plus is also funded by AHEAD, the central technology transfer program of Fraunhofer Venture, which is responsible for spin-off and investment management of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft.
Video of the Science4Life award (from min 18 presentation of the PV2Plus concept): https://www.science4life.de/konzeptpraemierung2021/
About the Science4Life Cup
Sciences4Life e.V. has been distinguishing innovative ideas in the fields of life sciences and energy for several years. Among the former winners in the field of life sciences is the CureVac company, the developer of mRNA-based COVID 19 vaccines.
The Science4Life Energy Cup is sponsored by Viessmann and the State of Hesse and directed at start-ups that deal with the use, conversion, storage and transport of energy. The Fraunhofer spin-off Greenventory received the Energy Cup in the past.