December 04, 2002
New Australian Photovoltaic Cell To Be Cheaper

While their manufacturing process uses fewer silicon wafers they neglect to say how much that will reduce the manufacturing cost of their cells.

A joint venture between the Australian National University and Origin Energy has developed a new type of solar cell with the potential to revolutionise the global solar power industry.

Director of the ANU Centre for Sustainable Energy Systems, Professor Andrew Blakers today unveiled the Sliver CellTM, which uses just one tenth of the costly silicon used in conventional solar panels while matching power, performance and efficiency.

Professor Blakers said, "A solar panel using Sliver CellTM technology needs the equivalent of two silicon wafers to convert sunlight to 140 watts of power. By comparison, a conventional solar panel needs about 60 silicon wafers to achieve this performance.

"By dramatically reducing the amount of expensive pure silicon, the largest cost in solar panels today, this new technology represents a major advance in solar power technology."

Origin Energy's Executive General Manager, Generation, Andrew Stock said, "Origin Energy has worked with ANU's Centre for Sustainable Energy Systems for several years, investing more than $6 million in research to discover a way to harness the sun's power at much lower cost.

"Due to the economy and flexibility of Sliver CellsTM, we believe this technology will play an important role in the future wide-spread adoption of solar power. Sliver CellTM technology is an excellent example of the way Australian researchers can work with Australian industry to innovate a product that leads the world".

ANU Vice-Chancellor, Professor Ian Chubb welcomed the research breakthrough. "Origin Energy is to be congratulated for its foresight and persistence in supporting the ANU team in this project. The company has made a substantial contribution since establishing the research partnership with ANU," Professor Chubb said.

The most expensive part of traditional solar power panels is the silicon from which the individual cells are made. The Sliver CellTM is a radically different concept in photovoltaics. Sliver CellsTM are produced using special micro-machining techniques, then assembled into solar panels using similar methods to those used to make conventional solar panels.

The new technology reduces costs in two main ways by using much less expensive silicon for similar efficiency and power output, and needing less capital to build a solar panel plant of similar capacity.

The unique attributes of Sliver CellTM technology could open many new Sliver CellTM applications, in addition to conventional rooftop and off-grid uses, including:

  • Transparent Sliver CellTM panes to replace building windows and cladding
  • Flexible, roll-up solar panels
  • High-voltage solar panels, and
  • Solar powered aircraft, satellite and surveillance systems
Share |      Randall Parker, 2002 December 04 12:15 PM  Energy Tech

Don Klemencic said at December 4, 2002 3:32 PM:

This is the second major development in photovoltaic technology I've read about in the last couple of weeks. The other came out of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory on 11/19/2002.They and their associate institutes discovered that the band gap of indium nitride was 0.7 eV and not 2.0 eV as previously thought,facilitating relatively simple full-spectrum cells from alloys of indium nitride and gallium nitride. I wonder if the Australians are going to combine the breakthroughs?

The related URLs are and

Randall Parker said at December 4, 2002 4:08 PM:

Don, If they did combine these two advances it'd be great wouldn't it? The Lawrence Berkeley Lab advance is so new that no one has had time to incorporate it into a manufacturing process. The LBL people are using compounds that are probably not even used at all in current silicon PV manufacturing processes.

I did post on that previous advance btw. You can find it here. There is also a category archive for all my energy technology posts.

marc-olivier florit said at August 29, 2003 2:39 AM:

This Sliver technology seems revolutionnary and will probably contribute to the cost reductions necessary to the development of photovoltaic industry. However, I will be interested in the manufacturing throughputs and the equipments costs. Moreover, such thin cells will be difficult to process into modules without breaking the cells.

Zeyphr said at December 18, 2007 10:43 AM:

Silicon based PV cells are not the way to go in large scale energy harvesting. They are alright in niche areas like solar powered roof vent fans, outside lights, etc.. Off the grid out in the boonies or outback where one Needs electrical power ! However, when you are looking for more than 500 watts to run Real Things like motors, tools, etc., then one needs real power. Like 2500 watts at least, bare minimum. I have been in solar PV for decades, use it on my home and work shop, etc.. It falls short and is very non cost effective ! Right now Si based panels are going for $10 to $12 per watt, this is out of rationality for power production.

From my perspective, CIGS and other compounds will probably win the day as they can be optimized and tailored to panels for better efficiency, ruggedness and reliability ! Even solar TE looks promising. I read one paper where some researchers have come up with a solid state thermoelectric module that convertes wide band solar radiance to almost 3KW from a 4 sq meter reflector surface, remember that the WB radiance power density is about 1KW/m^2 at standard conditions and environment ! The operating temperatures here was about 1000 F into an ambient day, about 85F. Remember your Carnot relationship ? Thermodynamic situations are always more efficient when working from a very high source temp into a very low sink temp. ! Thats one of the reasons that Gas Turbines make good motor generators for generating electricity, high efficiency !

There is a lot going on out there in the world right now. Researchers and inventors searching for the ' holy grail ' of electrical power generation ! What it is ultimately, we don't know right now but I think that somebody is going to stumble onto it sooner rather than later ! I am working on solar TE in my shop/lab. Presently using a standard sheet of Brass with a standard sheet of Stainless Steel which I cut into 12 mm strips and bond together to form Seebeck Couples/Piles. These piles are arranged into an accordian form with insulating spacers which forms a small 4x4 inch module surface. At about 1000F surface temp with concentrated radiance illumination, the module produces 500W., 5vdc@100amps into a load. Calculated eff. factor is 70%. Not bad, considering that it can be done with readily available materials and simple fabrication methods. My plan is to fabricate a module for evaluation that will develop 15vdc@200amps, to drive a system of 13.6 vdc auto batteries and two in phase 13.6vdc to 120vac inverters generating 230vac split to run the house and shop. It will use a 4 m^2 sun tracking concentrator of relatively simple design.

A lot of people working on a lot of ideas and approaches to these problems. As my old math prof. Dr. Whu used to say; ' Who knows ? ', Whu does ! Zeyphr, Ph.D., physicist.

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