Microsystem-Enabled Photovoltaic (MEPV) cells allow solar PV systems to take advantage of scaling benefits that occur as solar cells are reduced in size. We have developed MEPV cells that are 5 to 20 microns thick and down to 250 microns across. We have developed and demonstrated crystalline silicon (c-Si) cells with solar conversion efficiencies of 14.9%, and gallium arsenide (GaAs) cells with a conversion efficiency of 11.36%. In pursuing this work, we have identified over twenty scaling benefits that reduce PV system cost, improve performance, or allow new functionality.
To create these cells, we have combined microfabrication techniques from various microsystem technologies. We have focused our development efforts on creating a process flow that uses standard equipment and standard wafer thicknesses, allows all high-temperature processing to be performed prior to release, and allows the remaining post-release wafer to be reprocessed and reused. The c-Si cell junctions are created using a backside point-contact PV cell process. The GaAs cells have an epitaxially grown junction. Despite the horizontal junction, these cells also are backside contacted. We provide recent developments and details for all steps of the process including junction creation, surface passivation, metallization, and release.