Swiss CIGS PV start-up Flisom enters pilot production

June 15, 2015 // By Paul Buckley
Swiss start-up Flisom has inaugurated a pilot production plant near Zurich for manufacturing flexible low-cost, high-performance CIGS thin film solar cells and also secured an investment of CHF 10 million.

About two years ago Flisom received CHF 42.5 million and now with the advent of the new roll-to-roll manufacturing plant the company is capable of producing one meter-wide rolls.

The successful scale-up from lab to industrial levels has been made possible following a long-standing research cooperation between Flisom and Empa, the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology.

A veteran in thin film photovoltaics with 35 years of experience, Flisom founder and Chairman (as well as Head of Empa’s Thin Film and Photovoltaics lab) Ayodhya N. Tiwari is convinced that these cells have the potential for providing highly efficient solar modules and solar systems with low installation costs.

Development trends and technological progress for CIGS technology suggest the feasibility of solar module costs below € 0.35/Wp (Watt peak) and installed system costs below € 0.6/Wp making solar electricity much more affordable in the near future. Potential markets and applications for Flisom’s flexible solar module manufacturing technology include utility scale solar farms, building integrated photovoltaics (BIPV), building applied photovoltaics (BAPV), transportation and portable power – and a so far untapped market potential of several billion Euros.

Tiwari’s team at Empa is investigating fundamental properties of CIGS solar cells, a work that has yielded a series of world records in energy conversion efficiency, from 12.8% in 1999 to 20.4% in 2013 – a value that equaled the highest efficiencies for polycrystalline silicon wafer-based solar cells at the time. Combining Empa’s world-class CIGS processing know-how with Flisom’s proprietary laser patterning tools meanwhile led to the production of a monolithically interconnected mini-module on plastic film, 5x5 square centimeters in size and with an overall efficiency of 16.9%. "Large area modules on flexible foils with an efficiency above 17% are very well possible with this technology," said Tiwari.

Empa and Flisom have been cooperating for a number of years to develop an industrial-scale production platform for CIGS solar modules. "Scale-up for large-area solar modules and adapting these complex innovative processes for industrial manufacturability is quite a challenge and requires close collaboration between research labs and industrial partners for transferring research excellence to industrial usability," said Pierangelo Gröning, head of the Department of Advanced Materials and Surfaces and member of Empa’s Board of Directors. "For industrial partners such as Flisom we provide support on different topics to enable industrial development of novel and innovative concepts, which often require sophisticated analytical tools and skilled experts."