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According to “Materials Markets for Thin-Film Silicon Photovoltaics,” a new report from NanoMarkets, amorphous silicon (a-Si) will continue to lead the thin-film photovoltaic (TFPV) space for several years to come. The firm projects that $1.3 billion in revenues for a-Si-based photovoltaics this year will grow to $4.1 billion in the year 2014.
Amorphous silicon combines the advantages associated with all thin-film technologies, notably reduced bulk and weight, flexibility, and the potential for lower-cost manufacturing. There is a lot of installed capacity for a-Si, with more in the works. While NanoMarkets projects a relative decline against other forms of TFPV, it will happen quite slowly. Today, a-Si represents about 54% of all TFPV shipped, by value. By 2011, this number will have slipped to 47%. In addition, a-Si is the most likely technological route that will be taken by new entrants into the TFPV business, as manufacturing equipment and materials are readily available.
Amorphous silicon has been always been hampered in the marketplace by its low efficiency, but NanoMarkets believes that the development of a-Si PV cells with improved efficiency will be the key to a-Si maintaining its dominant position in the TFPV marketplace. Areas where efficiency gains can be made include further optimization of the tandem-junction thin-film deposition process; modification of the current processes used to texturize the TCO, which will improve the light-trapping efficiency and thus overall efficiency of the cell; and the development of materials to support the transition to nanostructured silicon, including silicon nanowires and silicon-based quantum dot absorbers, which, if successful, will provide a path to efficiencies above 15%.
The a-Si PV market already has many players, almost all of which create PV on a rigid glass substrate. However, the new report believes there is an opportunity for new a-Si materials and modules firms to create a sector of the a-Si using flexible substrates. This area has barely been touched by existing players, and NanoMarkets expects materials for a-Si PV cells made on flexible substrates to take an increasing share of the a-Si PV materials market, growing from about $178.5 million in 2011 to $673.8 million in 2016.
While a-Si is the dominant TFPV technology used today, it is already being challenged by cadmium telluride. Near the end of the forecast period, other approaches in the TFPV landscape will also make their impact felt, especially CIGS and possibly organic PV and dye-sensitive cells.
Visit www.nanomarkets.net for additional details.