Innovating Out of the Solar Winter – Dan Hutcheson Interviews Applied’s Jim Mullin

The end market for solar power is booming, thanks to tremendous cost decreases over the last few years. However, it’s a crowded market for the companies that actually make the solar cells. Last week, Applied’s Giorgio Cellere blogged about how new manufacturing technology can help solar cell makers gain a competitive edge.

Recently, Dan Hutcheson, CEO of VLSIresearch, explored this same subject in more depth with Jim Mullin, vice president of Solar Marketing at Applied Materials, in a video interview titled “Innovating out of the Solar Winter with Technology”.

In addition to discussing the big picture, Jim explains how changing the way cells are made electrically active can raise cell efficiency and greatly improve manufacturing precision and yield.

Traditionally, this process has been done by baking wafers in a soup of phosphorus-containing gas. It’s like painting a house by dipping it in a (rather large) bucket of paint.

Inside the Applied Solion Ion Implanter

Applied has developed a better way, which replaces the bucket with a stencil and a spray gun. It’s fast, accurate and actually reduces the number of steps it takes to make the cell because you don’t have to strip the unwanted paint from the windows afterwards (to stretch the paint metaphor to breaking point).

This technique is called ion implantation and works by firing dopant atoms into the silicon lattice in exactly the right places and at the right concentration. (For more on the fundamentals, check out our Ion Implantation 101 video.)

As Jim explains, Applied’s Solion® Ion Implanter is catching on rapidly at leading cell manufacturers around the world. To borrow Dan’s phrase, it’s a great example of how we’re helping our customers “Innovate out of the Solar Winter with Technology.”

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