Technology Review has an article on 1666 Technologies' "hopes to cut the cost of solar with cheaper manufacturing" (yet another company aiming to make the cost of solar power lower than that of coal)- Making More Solar Cells from Silicon.
A new manufacturing process could cut the cost of making crystalline silicon wafers for solar cells by 80 percent. The process is being developed by Lexington, MA-based 1366 Technologies, which this week showed off the first solar cells made this way. The technology is key to the company's plan to make solar power cheaper than the electricity generated from coal within 10 years.
Silicon wafers are the core component in conventional solar cells--they're what absorbs sunlight and generates electrons. Yet the way wafers are currently manufactured wastes half of the expensive, ultra-pure crystalline silicon they're made from. When large ingots of silicon are cut into hair-thin wafers, waste silicon is lost as sawdust. The new process--details of which remain secret--produces wafers directly from molten silicon without any sawing. This saves material and reduces the number of steps needed to make solar cells, both of which bring down costs.
"The technology could be disruptive," says Reidar Langmo, the CEO of Novus Energy Partners and the founder of the solar company REC. Langmo recently joined the board at 1366.