Trina Solar is in close collaboration with the University of New South Wales (UNSW) and Australia National University (ANU) to drive research in solar energy technology such as PERC cells. Home to some of the world’s most significant university PV research groups, Australia is a region to look out for in terms of revolutionary solar energy solutions. With PERC cells now accounting for a third of the world’s solar cell market, Trina Solar aims to be a key player in this area and hopes to further extend its reach to the global market.
PERC, which stands for passivated emitter and rear cell, was first invented by scientists at UNSW in 1983. Since then, scientists around the world have worked to simplify the manufacturing process for commercial PERC cell usage. Trina Solar started working with UNSW nearly 10 years ago to refine the process, specifically focusing on hydrogenation and characterization in recent years to render silicon impurities harmless and identify specific areas of cell improvement. In addition, Trina Solar is also working closely with ANU to conduct research on defects in silicon and application of layers to silicon wafers to increase solar cells’ electricity generation.
“ANU has recently done groundbreaking work to passivate metal contacts by putting thin layers between the silicon wafer and the contacts,” says Dr. Pietro Altermatt, principal scientist at Trina Solar. “Such ‘passivated contacts’ will be decisive for cell improvements in the near future. ANU is now paving the way for the future of solar cell improvements.”
Trina Solar has also helped to fund both “blue sky” and applied research at the universities. While the former sets the foundation of a successful industry, the latter refines its technological processes and are thus equally important in advancing the solar energy industry.
“You cannot commercialise all ‘blue sky’ research, but it is very important because it is where innovative and original ideas are born,” said Dr. Altermatt. “If you only do applied research, then all you end up with is optimization and ways to improve existing technology.”
The market response to PERC technology so far has been outstanding with experts forecasting that PERC cells will be accountable for more than half the solar cell market within the next four years. Trina Solar has thus claimed a good market position by shifting its production toward PERC manufacturing early and additionally investing in state-of-the-art research and collaborations with tertiary institutes, major industry partners, and local companies.
“Most researchers would agree that the modern solar cells coming onto the market today would not be so efficient and so cheap to produce if it hadn’t been for the research done by both UNSW and ANU,” said Dr. Altermatt. “Trina Solar has been working to market solar systems with PERC technology to consumers around the world so we can help people to switch to renewable energy and reduce carbon emissions.”
Besides furthering research and driving innovation, Trina Solar also hopes to identify and foster young talents in the field through these collaborations. For instance, some of the PhD students from either teams may find future career prospects with Trina Solar through the course of such research projects.
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