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Natcore Technology: Changing the World by Advancing Solar Science
One of the road blocks to the widespread use of solar cells has been their inability to be cost competitive with conventional power sources but Natcore Technology Inc. (TSXV: NXT) is focused on changing this with their new thin-film growth technology. Exclusively licensed from Rice University, this technology will have immediate impacts to the solar sector, with additional positive impacts to the semiconductor and fiber-optic sectors. Natcore Technology is anticipated to reduce solar cell manufacturers’ use of silicone by over 60% and this will dramatically decrease costs, improve profit margins and ultimately boost throughput.
Further, Natcore Technology will make it possible to mass manufacture super-efficient (30%+) tandem solar cells with double the power output compared to today’s most efficient versions. In simple terms, any product or process that relies on films of silicone dioxide or mixed silicone oxides has the potential to benefit from Natcore Technology.
On September 27, 2012, a research report from Lux Research, an independent research and advisory company named Natcore Technology as an innovator with “next-generation technologies that will drive down cost per watt and restore profit margins to low double digits” for solar module manufacturers. Natcore Technology was also singled out as “the leader in antireflective and light-trapping coatings with likely commercialization this year.”
Chuck Provini, Natcore Technology’s CEO and President comments: “Halve the cost, double the efficiency: That’s our mantra. We have been working for years to dramatically lower the cost of solar energy through techniques such as our ‘absolute black’ silicon, and commercialization is finally within our grasp.” (link)
Currently, product development of Natcore Technology is primarily focused on silicon solar cell coatings and devices. Applications prioritized next in line are those that use silicone substrates in different forms such as silicon-on-insulator (SOI) wafers — they are the future of microprocessor design. SOI chip production is the fastest growing segment of silicone manufacturing because faster transistors that use less power are essential components for electronics such as handheld devices.
Another application is relevant to the healthcare sector, called NanoStop! Shielding Frabric. It’s an nanocloth x-ray shielding fabric made from yarn and is embedded with nanotubes on which thin silica films have been grown to give the fabric its x-ray shielding properties. An immediate application of this would be as a replacement to the 15 pound lead aprons worn by x-ray technicians. The nanocloth x-ray shield would weigh only 3 to 4 pounds. The fundamentals of this technology can also be applied to a range of industrial and aerospace applications. Consider its use as coating on wetsuits to protect the wearer from bacterial and viral infections when worn in polluted waters. This would be particularly relevant to oil platform divers, Navy SEALS and first responders.
With businesses and individuals alike demanding faster communications with ever increasing data processing capabilities, dense wave division multiplexing (DWDM) in an all-optical internet are seen as the way forward. The infrastructure for this is based on three main segments: long-haul fiber-optic trunk lines, city and local area fiber-optic rings and the critical fiber-optic branches that get end users connected. The best performing optical components are made from high-purity silicon dioxide. Though such products are already in many companies’ pipelines, a critical component still does not exist — namely, the high volume manufacturing technology capable of creating components at a cost low enough to entice end users to upgrade from the current electronic internet connections. Natcore Technology holds the potential to do this with its solar science advancements.