Project Name: Electroplated Aluminum - An Alternative to Copper or Silver Electrodes in Silicon Solar Cells
Funding Opportunity: PVRD2
SETO Subprogram: Photovoltaics
Location: Tempe, AZ
SETO Award Amount: $225,000
Awardee Cost Share: $25,000
Principal Investigator: Meng Tao

This project is developing a two-layer aluminum electrode to substitute the silver electrode in silicon solar cells. It will also serve as an alternative to copper. This includes the examination of electroplating to significantly reduce processing costs, improve module reliability and lifetime, and maintain high cell efficiency.


The research team is focusing on both equipment and process development around the aluminum electrode. They will create a lab-scale tool for light-induced aluminum plating on silicon cells and an optimized plating process. Those will both be tested in three types of industrial solar cells: p-type aluminum back-surface field cells, p-type passivated emitter rear contact cells, and n-type back-emitter cells.


The two-layer aluminum electrode developed under this project will provide a lower-cost alternative to silver, the most commonly used metal in solar cells that currently represents approximately 8.5 percent of the cost of a solar cell. The electroplating process of the aluminum will be interchangeable with copper, allowing companies that use electroplated contacts to switch with minimal investment. The efficiency targets of the cells are between 18.5 percent and 21 percent, which would result in less expensive modules that will help to lower the levelized cost of electricity.