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Irish tech firm Nines Photovoltaic in Solar Cell Breakthrough

Nines Photovoltaic (Nines PV), an Irish technology company based in the Synergy Centre at IT Tallaght, has invented and patented an innovative new process which will significantly reduce the production costs for solar cells, used to trap light and make energy.

Nines has invested €1.5 million in a newly commissioned Atmospheric Dry Etching (ADE) pilot scale demonstrator at IT Tallaght where it can now start trials of the patented process with key international solar cell makers. The Department of Electronic Engineering at IT Tallaght is also supporting the development.

To date, solar cell manufacturers have been unable to come up with a suitable silicon etching process that would let them use a lower cost but equally efficient Diamond Wire cut silicon wafers to make their solar cells. Many attempts have been made to transfer etching techniques developed for silicon semiconductor manufacturing , however the cost and complexity of these solutions do not fit with large scale solar cell production.

Nines PV developed an etch solution specifically for solar cell production from first principles . This approach has dramatically changed the etching processes used to manufacture solar cells – reducing the cost and increasing production line throughput while also increasing cell efficiencies.

Nines has pioneered a high throughput, atmospheric pressure dry etching technology. The Nines tool is used to etch away layers of silicon from a crystalline silicon wafer to facilitate the creation of a solar cell. This is currently done by manufacturers using a wet chemical process. The Nines solution uses a fully dry process which is also beneficial for the environment as it uses only chemicals with a Zero Global Warming Potential.

This significant breakthrough will enable solar cell manufacturers to cut their costs of production by up to 25%. For a typical solar cell producer this will equate to savings of up to €20 million a year.

Fuelled by growing demand for sustainable energy and new demand in markets such as China, India, Japan and the US, the current addressable market opportunity for ADE production machines is estimated at over $1 Billion over the next number of years.

Ed Duffy, Founder and CEO of Nines PV said, “This progression is an important milestone and the beginning of an ambitious development programme to address a compelling market need. Our new demonstration centre will enable work on further valuable process techniques and intellectual property that will help our customers to integrate Nines ADE into their manufacturing processes.”

James Wright, Head of the Department of Electronic Engineering at IT Tallaght said, “The partnership that has developed between Nines PV and our Electronic Engineering Department has proved to be very valuable. It became evident from working with Nines over a number of years that the company has great potential. This is not only a valuable research project but also a means of promoting entrepreneurship among our researchers and students who see how their skills and expertise can be translated into successful technology ventures which are investor ready and targeted towards commercial success. ”

“Our collaboration with Nines PV demonstrates the potential for success that can be achieved in joint industry and academic partnerships. Over many years we have supported start-up companies by providing design support and advice and commercial supports through our Synergy Innovation Centre.”

Nines PV has received funding from the EU Framework Programme 7 research support programme to help with this demonstrator (Ref-DEMOSOLNOWAT – FP7:606400).

About Nines Photovoltaics
Nines Photovoltaics (Nines PV) is a Dublin Based SME specialised in advanced equipment manufacturing and process development for the PV Solar industry. Based in the Synergy Centre on the Tallaght IT Campus in Ireland, the company is led by its founder Edward Duffy CEO, and CTO Laurent Clochard – both of whom are highly experienced semiconductor industry professionals in the area of process based technologies and solutions. Since its start-up, Nines PV has received support through investment from Business Venture Partners, Kernel Capital and Enterprise Ireland along with a handful of other private investors.

About IT Tallaght
The Institute of Technology Tallaght (ITT ) caters for a student population of approximately 5,600 students, comprising 3,100 full-time and 2,500 part-time students.

Based on campus at IT Tallaght, Dublin, Synergy Centre is the innovation centre of South Dublin County, providing office space and business supports to early-stage enterprises. Its focus is on the high technology and knowledge intensive sectors. Synergy’s aim is to enable industry and academia to interact to create viable enterprises for South Dublin County that will secure the area’s future in terms of job creation, innovation and export potential.