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Natcore prepares to commercialize its black silicon

Natcore achieves scalable black siliconNatcore Technology announced today that it has successfully created the World’s first black silicon solar cell using a scalable process.

The announcement is big news for the New Jersey company that raised $2.5 million through a private stock offering this summer. It brings Natcore to the edge of commercialization.

“We’re very close to getting out of the lab with this,” said Natcore president and CEO Chuck Provini.

The company used its patented Liquid Phase Deposition technology to build the solar cell, which has near-zero reflectivity.

Natcore began developing black silicon after the National Renewable Energy Laboratory licensed its patents to the company in 2011. NREL achieved 18.2 percent efficiency with its black silicon, but it used costly techniques that weren’t scalable. Natcore was able to achieve 16.5 percent efficiency with the cell it just announced and will work with NREL to bring that figure up, Provini said.

But the impact the black silicon will have on solar cell power output could change the solar industry, Provini said. Since black silicon doesn’t reflect light, it will produce more electricity during dusk and dawn and won’t be impacted as dramatically on cloudy days. Comparing two cells with the same efficiency, Provini said the one with black silicon could produce 10 percent more power.

Natcore is building equipment poised for the market and it’s nearly ready to begin selling the technology to solar panel manufacturers around the globe, Provini said.

But this almost wasn’t Natcore’s commercial success. The company was in discussions to partner with a couple Chinese solar manufacturers earlier this year. As part of the joint venture agreements, Provini said the companies would fund the research to get black silicon off the ground and then make a small payment to Natcore for the black silicon that would increase over time.

“But they wanted us to put all of our technology into this joint venture,” Provini said. “We decided to take a pass on that. We’ll do it ourselves.”

That’s when the company raised $2.5 million to invest in equipment and brainpower. It’s been less than six months since that cash infusion and Natcore is already making major announcements. “When we go back to these Chinese companies we will have a lot more leverage now,” Provini said.

The company owns its technology and expects a lot of interest from manufacturers.

While Natcore has proven it can build its own black silicon, Provini said the company is also testing some solar cells a Chinese company sent over to see how applying black silicon technology to them impacts their efficiency and energy output. He said he should be prepared to make an announcement about those results shortly.

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