Colorado-based Ascent Solar, a provider of thin-film solar panels designed for harsh environments like space, announced it has achieved a significant increase in power conversion efficiency for its copper indium gallium diselenide (CIGS) solar cells.
Ascent achieved a 15.2% efficiency, bounding past the 10.8% standard efficiency measured for production material in 2012. The Department of Energy said that although laboratory-scale cell efficiencies have exceeded 20%, commercially viable CIGS modules typically have efficiencies between 12% and 14%.
CIGS technology is a versatile material that can be fabricated by multiple processes and implemented in different form factors. It can be deposited on substrates like glass, metal foils, and polymers, allowing for lightweight or flexible modules.
Starting with an ultra-thin, 25 micron (µ), polyimide base film, the final thickness of Ascent’s thin film is 52 µ. For reference, a human hair is on average 72µ thick. This enables lightweight power production at 68.4 grams per square meter.
The company’s breakthrough in efficiency for commercial cells is attributed to replacing cadmium sulfide, a harsh and hazardous material, with zinc oxysulfide. Preliminary measurements have shown the replacement material to offer 5% to 8% higher efficiency, offering a theoretical limit of about 16%.
“We’re thrilled with the recent achievements in process optimization for our CIGS technology, an innovation in thin film PV that we believe positions us for increased commercial adoption,” said Paul Warley, chief executive officer, Ascent Solar Technologies. “With continued increases in efficiency, we anticipate expanding sales into both new and existing markets and meeting the ever-increasing demand for solar power in targeted specialty applications.”
Ascent said its technology is suitable for flexible applications like agrivoltaic installations, building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV), drones and autonomous aircraft, and space and defense applications.
Ascent Solar’s research and development center and 5 MW production facility is in Thornton, Colorado. The company’s technology is backed by 40 years of research and development and 15 years of manufacturing experience.
In April Ascent Solar announced the closing of its acquisition of Flisom AG, a Swiss manufacturer of thin-film solar modules with 15 MW of production capacity.
In December 2022 the company secured a $50 million equity financing from two institutional investors. The company said it intends to use the net proceeds for general corporate purposes including financing its continued growth, strategic investments in partnerships and capital expenditures.
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