SBIR Phase II: Microwave Surface-Wave Plasma Source for Large-Area, High-Throughput, High-Quality Thin-Film Manufacturing for Solar Panels and Semiconductors

Period of Performance: 01/01/2011 - 12/31/2011


Phase 2 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Starfire Industries, LLC
2109 South Oak Street Array
Champaign, IL 61820
Principal Investigator


This Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II project aims to develop a Plasma-Enhanced Chemical Vapor Deposition (PECVD) system for the deposition of silicon layers for a solar cell to absorb sunlight and convert to electricity. Current PECVD processes face challenges that limit the quality and speed at which the silicon thin film can be deposited. This translates into higher capital cost and less efficient photovoltaic modules, thus higher cost. In this project, a novel microwave surface-wave plasma source for the PECVD processing step will be developed. This source has the potential to increase deposition rates by 10 times over the current state of the art, while maintaining excellent film quality needed for high energy conversion efficiency and long lifetime. The expected outcome of this project is to offer a technology with high processing speed that is suitable to manufacture advanced tandem and triple-junction solar cells with high energy conversion efficiency. The broader/commercial impacts of this project will be the potential to enable the manufacturing of high-efficiency thin-film silicon solar cells at costs meeting or exceeding the 2020 grid-parity goal of $1/Watt installed cost. Thin-film silicon uses earth-abundant, sustainable materials with inexhaustible supply of raw materials and no toxicity concerns. The solution provided by Starfire addresses a critical manufacturing challenge that has the potential to break the thin-film silicon bottleneck and enable its wide adoption. This technology can also be used in areas such as semiconductors and advanced lighting.