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Software to improve solar cell yield

Posted: 28 Aug 2008     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:solar fabs  solar cells  yield enhancement  conversion efficiency 

Magma Design Automation Inc., a provider of chip design software, has announced the development of a new yield enhancement software system customised for solar fabs to improve conversion efficiency, increase yield and reduce the manufacturing costs of solar cells. Magma is collaborating with Pegasus Semiconductor-Solar to refine product specifications and test the new product, based on Magma's YieldManager software system.

Solar-converted electricity costs two to three times as much to produce as energy generated from traditional sources. Inefficient energy conversion and the need to produce a very large number of wafers contribute to the high cost. Only about 16 per cent of light that hits a solar cell wafer can be collected as usable electricity. To produce enough solar cells to generate 500MW a year, a solar cell fab must produce as many as 4 lakh (400,000) wafers a day, an exponentially larger number than what the largest semiconductor plants produce. The cost of the silicon alone, not to mention the manufacturing costs, for that number of wafers is considerable. Improving the energy conversion efficiency, reducing the manufacturing costs and increasing the yield of silicon wafer-based solar cells are critical to the growth of the solar market.

Magma's new software will allow solar fabs to better monitor all metrology, inspection and performance data throughout the manufacturing process. This would enable fab operators to identify and correct root causes of solar-efficiency and yield degradation caused by subtle fab processing fluctuations or instability.

"Semiconductor manufacturing tools such as rapid fault detection, advanced process control and integrated yield management-which enabled rapid technology introductions and fast yield ramps-are now critically needed in the solar industry to reduce costs," said Dr. Sudhindra Tatti, president of Pegasus Semiconductor-Solar, a systems integrator in the solar industry.

Magma says that YieldManager enables fast, accurate analysis and correlation of disparate data from most of the equipment in the manufacturing line. With this information, semiconductor test and production engineers can identify and correct root causes of yield loss-saving time, maximising equipment utilisation, increasing yield and reducing costs. A solar-targeting version of YieldManager could effectively address the similar solar cell fabrication process.

Magma is collaborating with several solar fabs and will soon announce installation sites in Asia.

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