12.03.2021 - Story

Three teams, one goal: efficiency

Meyer Burger is an innovation leader in the PV industry. The research teams in Switzerland give insight into their formula for success. SmartWire Connection technology (SWCT) and HJT cell technology have been developed at the company headquarters in Thun and at Meyer Burger Research. Thanks to these innovations, Meyer Burger has a remarkable technological lead over competitors.

 

This lead is no reason to lean back and be satisfied. The Research & Development team, comprising a good 30 people, is already working on the next generation of modules. The highly efficient, cost-effective and extremely robust SmartWire Connection technology will remain the best electrical connection technology for the next cell generation, Gerhard Marti, Head of Module Development, is convinced. He and his team are currently researching how they can improve materials and construction methods.

Test modules are created by hand: Highly efficient cells are joined together with the utmost precision, interconnected with each other using special electrode materials. Further protective layers and the cover glass are placed on top and the plastics are polymerized and pressed in the laminator. There is an ongoing search for the ideal material compositions for the module to ensure that the sunlight hits the cell unhindered and that the cells are simultaneously encapsulated and protected in the best possible way.

 

Testing, testing, testing

Each module variant is then checked: The finished module is screened with electroluminescence, exposed to extreme temperatures from –40 °C to +85 °C and intense UV radiation. Testing also includes a load test as well as an endurance test of one month in the climate chamber. In Thun, all prototypes are checked up to six times instead of only once as prescribed. After all, the mature and mass-produced product must reliably supply electricity for 25 to 30 years under all weather and climate conditions.

 



"Full transparency, proximity and a shared corporate culture give us decisive advantages for further development.”

Christoph Gurtner, Research-Team, Thun
 


 

Historically, Meyer Burger has been a technology developer and machine builder for the PV industry. In Thun, the company continues to optimize manufacturing processes.

In Thun, the company also continues to optimize manufacturing processes, develop machines for the electrical contacting of solar cells and support the industrial production of series machines at Meyer Burger’s central machine manufacturing facility in Hohenstein-Ernstthal (Germany). Where possible, Meyer Burger cooperates with institutes, partners and suppliers. For the past two years, in-house engineers have been working on machines for processing the next generation of cells. The team is building prototypes for the future production of these new, significantly improved solar modules. In a single module, more than 2,000 electrical contact points are automatically laid and bonded.

 

Extremely valuable feedback

Feedback from the use of the machines and technologies in Meyer Burger’s own production is extremely valuable for practical research activities and generates higher development efficiency. Team member Christoph Gurtner says: “We look forward to receiving unvarnished feedback from our colleagues in Germany when the new machines are in continuous operation. Full transparency, proximity and a shared corporate culture give us decisive advantages for further development.”

Neuchâtel Moment of truth: Pasan cell tester simulates sunlight and measures electrical power with maximum precision.

SmartWire Connection technology developed at headquarters in Thun: Highly efficient, cost-effective and extremely robust

Thun Gabriela, Frederic, Pascal and Christoph: Team spirit, shared corporate culture and practical relevance promote innovative power.

Just an hour’s drive from Thun are two other Meyer Burger research sites. This is no coincidence as the region between Berne and Geneva is the center of the Swiss precision industry, first and foremost the watchmaking industry. Pasan SA in Neuchâtel has been part of Meyer Burger for ten years; its founder previously worked for a watch manufacturer with a global reputation. This background shaped the company’s mission to provide “the measurement you can trust”. Pasan develops and produces highly precise and reliable cell and module testers, setting the standards worldwide. Pasan is, so to speak, the Rolex of the module measurement industry.

Pasan’s tools simulate sunlight and measure the cell or module performance (the amount of electricity produced). They are an integral part of Meyer Burger’s future production lines. in Bitterfeld-Wolfen and Freiberg, but also present on the international market. Almost all leading manufacturers of solar modules use measurement technology from Pasan.

Led by Rajesh Ambigapathy, Managing Director, a core team of engineers at Pasan is now working on measurement capabilities for the next generation of cells and modules. “We are looking at alternative light sources in order to improve our measurement processes, and at contacting technologies. We are in close contact with the teams in Hauterive and Thun. We base our developments on their needs, enabling them to accurately measure the novel cells and modules that they are developing.”

At Meyer Burger Research in Hauterive on the shores of Lake Neuchâtel, the focus is on cell research. This is where a significant part of heterojunction technology (HJT) was developed. Damien Lachenal, Head of Research & Development, describes the research approach as “finding out where we lose efficiency and how we can avoid this in the future”. Sounds simple, but it’s not. The team consists of solar cell physicists, plasma physicists, engineers, technicians, chemists and software specialists. They use sophisticated experiments to identify weak points and test possibilities for improvement. New tests are set up every week, with about every tenth experiment leading to hoped-for progress.

 

Close partnership with CSEM

Problems are often tackled with the support of neighboring CSEM, a Swiss research and develop- ment center, in a public-private partnership. CSEM specializes in fields ranging from photovoltaics and energy management to life sciences. It has around 500 highly qualified experts at several locations. “We have been able to help Meyer Burger build an amazing technology portfolio. This will allow them to play an important role in PV manufacturing in the years to come”, said Christophe Ballif, Vice President of CSEM and Director of the PV Center, at the occasion of extending the partnership with Meyer Burger.

 



"Our research approach is to find out where we lose efficiency and how we can avoid this in the future.”

Damien Lachenal, Head of Research & Development, Hauterive
 


 

Next generation of cells

The next generation of cells is expected to be significantly more efficient than the current HJT cell. The front side of the cell will be more transparent, allowing it to make even better use of sunlight. Work is also being done on cost-efficiency. Till Kössler is overseeing a series of tests to determine the extent to which silver can be replaced by other materials in the coating of silicon wafers, the core of all cells. “That would achieve a noticeable cost saving, which will help to increase our competitiveness”, he says. The research took four years before the new cell type will soon be tested in mass production.





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