AVANCIS achieves record thin-film module efficiency of 16.6% using CIS technology

Riding on the back of recent advances in research, copper-indium-selenide (CIS) technology has received a shot in the arm with a new record efficiency – this time with commercial implications.

AVANCIS, the fifth largest thin-film panel manufacturer, recently achieved a new world record efficiency of 16.6% on its CIS panels, which were independently confirmed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), USA. With this announcement, AVANCIS has bested its own last externally certified efficiency record from 2011, reclaiming its international efficiency ranking of encapsulated CIS thin-film modules.

The new record efficiency was measured on the best of a batch (called a ‘champion’ module) of 30 x 30 cm2 encapsulated modules made by AVANCIS. Although the champion module is about 11 times smaller than AVANCIS’s own commercial modules (158 x 66 cm2), it is significantly bigger than laboratory produced cells, which are typically only a few square centimetres in size and generally un-encapsulated. For example, the record lab efficiency of 20.8% achieved by researchers at ZSW in late 2013 using a similar CIS-based thin-film technology was on an un-encapsulated cell of size 0.5 cm2 – over 1000x smaller than the AVANCIS module.

The ability to demonstrate high efficiencies on large modules is particularly critical for thin-film technologies as it involves consistently depositing thin, continuous and homogenous layers of material across the full area of the module. In comparison, the need for such homogeneity over large areas is irrelevant for silicon-based panels, which are made by connecting multiple cells of size 15 x 15 cm2 within the module – a relatively easier feat.

Emphasizing this, Dr. Jörg Palm, Head of Process Development at AVANCIS, explained that a deviation in homogeneity of only “0.15% absolute was observed between different 30 x 30 cm² modules from the same full-size absorber”, making it comparable to the homogeneity typically achieved in routine production.

Moreover, the record-holding module in question was partially processed at a commercial Torgau-based facility before undergoing the key efficiency-boosting process in an R&D center in Munich. As Palm explains, “The increased efficiency shows the enormous potential of our CIS production process.”

Although AVANCIS has not released cost details, it hopes to transfer the new technology from R&D to production soon. “A transfer of the pilot process to the production would lead to an impressive module performance of nearly 160 Wp of the approximately 1 m² sized PowerMax modules,” says Palm, referring to AVANCIS’ high-power thin-film module product.

Top Image Credit: AVANCIS

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Nitin Nampalli

Nitin is a regular contributor to Solar Choice News with a focus on solar PV technology. He holds a Master of Engineering Science in Renewable Energy from UNSW and a Bachelor of Science degree in Microelectronic Engineering from Rochester Institute of Technology, New York. He is currently a PhD candidate researching solar photovoltaics at UNSW. In addition to his studies, he has also worked extensively in solar PV research.
Nitin Nampalli