1366 is further ahead with its direct wafer process than assumed

Direct wafer process of 1366 Technologies
Start-up 1366 Technologies has doubled the throughput of its direct wafer furnace since 2014 – Image: Johannes Bernreuter

U.S.-based start-up 1366 Technologies has made more progress with its wafers directly formed from molten silicon than the LinkedIn community speculated after the company cancelled a 250 MW factory in upstate New York.

In an e-mail to Bernreuter Research, 1366 has stated that the current throughput for its direct wafer furnace is 10 MW per year – double the amount of 5 MW reached in 2014 – which means one wafer is produced every 15 seconds.

With this speed of development, 1366 is on par with conventional wafer sawing technology, which has also doubled throughput by switching from slurry-based wire to diamond wire.

“Even with the cost reductions in the industry, we are still half the cost of the traditional process,” says 1366. Current costs for conventional wafers are approx. $0.11/W. Through implementing its 3D wafer, a 100 to 120 µm thin wafer with thick edge, the company aims to achieve production costs of $0.03/W.

A factory at an undisclosed location in Southeast Asia “is underway,” says 1366.

In August 2017 Hanwha Q Cells reported a champion cell efficiency of 20.3% and an average efficiency of 20.1% for Passivated Emitter and Rear Cells (PERCs) using its Quantum technology on direct wafers from 1366 Technologies. These values appear impressive and indicate a very narrow efficiency distribution.

However, a closer look reveals some drawback: At the 32nd European Photovoltaic Solar Energy Conference (EU PVSEC) in June 2016, Hanwha Q Cells also reported a champion cell efficiency of 20.9%, using its Quantum technology on a conventional multicrystalline wafer, and projected further efficiency improvements of 0.4% absolute per year.

If you adopt this projection, you are at 21.3% on a conventional wafer in mid-2017 versus 20.3% on a direct wafer, using the same Quantum technology – a significant efficiency gap of 1% absolute.

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