REC deploys significant resources to develop and industrialize technology and process innovations across the solar energy value chain.
REC has introduced a series of innovations to the industry and is continuing to build on a strong IPR portfolio counting more than 50 patents granted and about 200 patents pending. Key patents and applications cover:
- Production technologies for silicon in fluidized bed and Siemens reactors
- Crystallization technology
- Wafer sawing, washing, and singulation
The technology team at REC Silicon works on further exploitation of the unique advantages of the fluidized bed reactor (FBR) technology. Our FBR process, which is in full scale commercial operation, saves energy by growing silicon beads in temperature-balanced conditions. It is a large improvement over the previous industry-standard Siemens process, where silicon seed rods are superheated inside a solidification chamber with cooled walls. The temperature imbalance in the Siemens process inherently results in higher energy consumption per unit of silicon produced. The FBR process is also more productive because it creates polysilicon in the form of beads that provide a larger surface area for growing silicon than the rod-based Siemens process.
Wafer, cell and panels
The focus is on full-scale development of new crystallization and furnace technologies for improving the performance of multicrystalline wafers. Another important area is testing of new wire saws, new singulation systems, and other new equipment and quality control systems that are integral parts of the wafer plant in Singapore. In co-operation with SiGen, REC develops new technologies that eliminate wire saws and kerf loss in the wafering process. We were the first in the world to cut 50 micron wafers from an ingot in 2008.
The technology activities related to cells and panels concentrate on higher efficiency and lower cost devices to be produced in REC’s cell and panel plant in Singapore. An integral part of these efforts are production technologies for handling thinner wafers.
To continue the drive for innovative technology development for both existing and planned facilities, REC operates three technology centers.
- The silane gas and polysilicon technology center in Moses Lake, Washington, USA
- The wafer/cell/panel technology center at Tuas, Singapore
- The Silicon Valley Lab, USA, where we are developing new technologies for photovoltaic solar power focusing on the convergence of very thin wafers and thin films.
REC spent NOK 183 million on research and development in 2012.