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Reducing costs and improving performance of solar cells

12/12/2010

  • Energy efficiency
  • Eu
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Belgian manufacturer NovoPolymers has developed an innovative polymer film which will reduce the energy needed to encapsulate solar panels while also improving their performance.

NovoPolymers is developing and manufacturing thermoplastic polymer films which enable module manufacturers to encapsulate their delicate solar cells to protect them against shock, moisture and degradation by UV radiation. The Flanders-based start-up believes its films will reduce the cost of solar cells.

The company obtained €3 million from the Capricorn Cleantech Fund and Gimv venture capital firms. This investment fuelled the start of production and commercialisation of its first product line NovoVellum.

Photovoltaic manufacturers must embed solar cells in a least one or more transparent elastic polymer layers during assembly to ensure long term functionality and efficiency. NovoPolymers has developed a range of encapsulants based on curable ethylene vinyl acetate, recyclable non-cure silicon-based hybrid and unconventional hydrocarbon thermoplastic elastomer materials for use with conventional crystalline silicon and amorphous silicon solar modules.

Traditional foils used as encapsulants are heated in a vacuum laminator for 20 minutes at 150°C. During this energy-intensive process, the upper and lower foil layers crosslink and the solar cells become hermetically sealed. NovoPolymers has developed a faster, more efficient heating process which enables panel manufacturers to increase productivity by 25%. In addition to a non-cure recyclable encapsulant, Novopolymers has created a high back-reflective encapsulant which can increase the yield of solar cells by as much as 15%.

“Our novel way of formulating allows us to bring cost-effective films to the market,” says NovoPolymers CEO Johan Declerck. “Our most performing films allow the module producer to reduce assembly time by 25% compared with best-in-class encapsulant films.”

NovoPolymers sold its first films in early 2010 and, by mid 2011, expects to employ 15 people. It hopes to open a second production plant, possibly in Asia, by 2012.

More information

Capricorn Cleantech Fund: investing in European innovative growth

Leuven-based Capricorn Venture Partners launched the Capricorn Cleantech Fund with the aim of investing in European innovative growth companies. It is supported by the EU through the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme (CIP). The fund manages € 112 million for investment in early and mid-stage ventures. It targets breakthrough technologies in a variety of environmental areas, including energy efficiency, water purification and green chemistry.

Investments include:

  • SBAE Industries (Belgium) – micro-algae as both an energy crop and a nutritional supplement;
  • Metallkraft (Norway) – recycling by-products from the solar wafer cutting process; and
  • Xylophane (Sweden) – sustainable alternative to oil-based packaging products.

More information:

Capricorn Venture Partners – Capricon Cleantech Fund:
http://www.capricorn.be

Related information on the EcoAP website:

‘EC and EIF support funds investing in eco-innovative SMEs’