IQE selected as partner in $2m Australian Solar Energy Institute programme

IQE plc (AIM: IQE, "IQE" or the "Group"), the leading global supplier of advanced semiconductor wafer products and services to the semiconductor industry, has been selected as a key CPV wafer supplier by Australian CPV company Silex Systems as part of a $2m programme to develop high efficiency multi-junction solar cells on low-cost large-area silicon substrates.

Silex Systems (ASX: SLX) received the $2 million grant from the Australian Solar Institute to support the company’s development of solar cell technology which could reduce energy production costs by up to 20%.

The aim of the programme is to develop, fabricate, and test novel next-generation multiple-junction solar cells used in the evolving utility scale Concentrating Photovoltaic (CPV) solar power station industry.

The key differentiator is the development of a new virtual ‘Germanium’ substrate wafer-based substrate where a thin layer of Ge is deposited on a Silicon wafer. This will reduce the cost and potentially improve the efficiency of the multiple-junction cells in CPV applications. The new substrates and resulting CPV cell structures will be fully characterised and analysed in the lab and then tested in on-sun in field equipment.

The grant from the Australian Solar Institute (ASI) which was established by the Australian Government in 2009 is for the development of high efficiency multi-junction solar cells on low cost large area silicon substrates. The program, by Silex’s wholly owned subsidiary Solar Systems, has the potential to reduce the cost of energy production from Concentrating Photovoltaic technologies by up to 20%.

Solar Systems will supplement the $2 million grant by providing about $3 million in project funding, with $2 million of in-kind support and $1 million in cash contributions over the three year project duration.

Project partner and Silex subsidiary Translucent will provide large area silicon substrate technology for the project, allowing for commercialisation of the technology to be fast tracked.

Dr. Andrew Johnson, IQE’s CPV Technology Director said:

"Silex Systems’ selection of IQE as a partner for this programme clearly demonstrates that we are recognised as a key global player in CPV wafer products for advanced, high efficiency solar energy generation. This programme builds on our advanced capabilities in germanium on silicon for CPV applications that we launched in 2010 and compliments the range of CPV technologies in which we are active."

Other key CPV partners in the programme include Boeing-owned Spectrolab and Emcore Corporation for multi-junction cell production facilities.

These partnerships will allow for volume production of the solar cells, which will be incorporated into Solar Systems’ dense array system to characterise the performance of the new CPV modules at the Bridgewater Test Facility in central Victoria.

IQE is the leading global supplier of advanced semiconductor wafers with products that cover a diverse range of applications, supported by an innovative outsourced foundry services portfolio that allows the Group to provide a ‘one stop shop’ for the wafer needs of the world’s leading semiconductor manufacturers.

IQE uses advanced crystal growth technology (epitaxy) to manufacture and supply bespoke semiconductor wafers (‘epi-wafers’) to the major chip manufacturing companies, who then use these wafers to make the chips which form the key components of virtually all high technology systems. IQE is unique in being able to supply wafers using all of the leading crystal growth technology platforms.

IQE’s products are found in many leading-edge consumer, communication, computing and industrial applications, including a complete range of wafer products for the wireless industry, such as mobile handsets and wireless infrastructure, Wi-Fi, WiMAX, base stations, GPS, and satellite communications; optical communications. The Group also manufactures advanced optoelectronic and photonic components such as semiconductor lasers, vertical cavity surface emitting lasers (VCSELs) and optical sensors for a wide range of applications including optical storage (CD, DVD, BluRay), thermal imaging, leading-edge medical products, pico-projection, finger navigation ultra high brightness LEDs, and high efficiency concentrator photovoltaic (CPV) solar cells.

The manufacturers of these chips are increasingly seeking to outsource wafer production to specialist foundries such as IQE in order to reduce overall wafer costs and accelerate time to market.

IQE also provides bespoke R&D services to deliver customised materials for specific applications and offers specialist technical staff to manufacture to specification either at its own facilities or on the customer’s own sites. The Group is also able to leverage its global purchasing volumes to reduce the cost of raw materials. In this way, IQE’s outsourced services, provide compelling benefits in terms of flexibility and predictability of cost, thereby significantly reducing operating risk.

IQE operates eight facilities located in Cardiff (two), Milton Keynes and Bath in the UK; in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, Somerset, New Jersey and Spokane, Washington in the USA; and Singapore. The Group also has 11 sales offices located in major economic centres worldwide.