IBM and Solar Frontier Partner on Thin-Film Solar Cells
The American company IBM and the Japanese company Solar Frontier announced Tuesday that they will be partnering from opposite sides of the globe to work on a common project: thin-film solar cells. Researchers in IBM's laboratories originally launched the project when they began experimenting with solar cells made from copper, zinc, tin, sulfur, and selenium (CZTS). The IBM researchers were able to show that these thin-film solar cells could reach 9.6% efficiency, and this result caught the interest of Solar Frontier. Solar Frontier now intends to continue the research that IBM has begun on CZTS thin-film solar panels.
While other types of thin-film solar panels, such as those made from copper, indium, gallium, and selenium (CIGS), have been shown to be more efficient than CZTS, the materials that compose them are more rare and costly. Concerns have been raised that indium is neither cost-effective nor plentiful enough to be practical for use in large-scale solar projects. The materials in CZTS, however, are relatively abundant and much less expensive, making the CZTS cells worth exploring in spite of their relative inefficiency. Solar Frontier's chief technology officer, Satoru Kuriyagawa, stated that his company intends to continue IBM's research into CZTS in order to produce thin-film solar panels that are "both economical and ecological."