The Fraunhofer Society has awarded the 2016 Joseph von Fraunhofer Prize to Ralf Preu, Division Director of PV Production Technology and Quality Assurance at Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems (ISE) in Freiburg, and his colleague Jan Nekarda. The two scientists won the award for developing laser-fired contact (LFC) technology. This enables the manufacturing of more efficient solar cells at low cost.

A majority of solar cells manufactured today come with a wide surface metallic contact, which entirely covers the backside of the silicon wafer, allowing the electricity to flow from the cell to the electrode. This limits its efficiency. Another alternative to this technology is the Passivated Emitter and Rear Cell technology (PERC), which was discovered in 1989. This puts an additional reflective layer on the backside of the cell and thousands of electric contact points. Preu and Nekarda developed the LFC technique to enable first industrial mass production of PERC solar cells, stated an official release from Fraunhofer Institute. Hanwha QCells, one of the leaders in this field and which operates its global R&D headquarters in Germany, has reportedly produced 20 million solar cells with the help of LFC process.

The awards, which are awarded annually to scientists of the Fraunhofer research institutes, were announced on May 10, 2016 at the annual meeting of Fraunhofer Society. Ralf Preu and Jan Nekarda were selected for their role as initiators and drivers of this change. The jury based the award among other things on the fact that “the researchers’ development helps German companies continue to succeed in the highly competitive photovoltaics market.”

Preu said, “We are delighted to receive this distinguished prize, which is not only a recognition of our work but also shows the innovative strength of the German and European photovoltaic industry.”

TaiyangNews has recently published an in-depth report on the status and outlook on PERC technology, which can be downloaded free of charge (see PERC Solar Cell Technology 2016).