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Jan 31st, 2013
 
Solar wafer start-up 1366 Technologies opens new production-scale factory
 
The company's new facility includes PV cell processing equipment for testing and validation of its wafer technology.
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  • The new production facility is based on the Direct Wafer technology  and has the annual production capacity of 25 MW.

On January 30th, 2013 start-up 1366 Technologies (Bedford, Massachusetts, US) opened a new production facility based on its Direct Wafer technology in the US state of Massachusetts, with the ability to reach up to 25 MW of annual production capacity.
 
The Direct Wafer process forms ultra-thin multicrystalline silicon wafers directly from molten silicon, removing several steps in conventional production processes. The factory also contains 1366's research and development operations.

The new factory includes processes to turn the company's wafers into solar photovoltaic (PV) cells, allowing internal testing and validation.

1366 notes that in customer trials, its cells have achieved 17% efficiencies, comparable with PV cells produced from conventional multicrystalline wafers. The company also states that the quality of its wafers varies less than those produced with conventional processes.

Advantage in reduced silicon waste
However, the greatest advantage may be in reduction of waste. 1366 notes that conventional polysilicon-to-wafer processes are not only energy- and capital-intensive, but lose a significant portion of polysilicon through the sawing process.

The company's wafers are typically produced at thicknesses of roughly 200 microns, however 1366 notes that its process allows it to produce wafers in a range of thicknesses.

1366 process includes proprietary wet process  1366 has also developed a proprietary wet process for the surface treatment of its wafers, a step which is necessary as its wafers initially have a higher reflectivity compared to conventional wafers. The process creates a surface texture of micro-scale pits, which increases light absorption.

Plans to build additional 1 GW facility  1366 states that over the next 12-18 months its wafer production will increase as its team fine-tunes the process to where it can be transferred and replicated in future facilities.

In addition to the facility in Bedford, Massachusetts, the company plans to build a 1 GW manufacturing facility, for which the US Department of Energy awarded the company a USD 150 million loan guarantee in September 2011. 1366 states that it expects to begin its search for a location in 2013.


 
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