Erik Ydstie: Improving Solar Energy: Silicon Wafers in Solar Cells

Erik Ydstie: Improving Solar Energy: Silicon Wafers in Solar Cells


My name is Erik Ydstie, I’m a process control
person, but I’ve got into this area of solar energy. The solar field has been booming. It once solved the energy the crisis in the
short run, but in the long run we can really see this has a huge impact. What we want to do is make the very thin slivers
of silicon, that they’re called wafers that’s used in the solar cells. Take silicon in a big vat, we melt it, then
it gets cooled and it solidifies, and it’s turned into a crystal. Take a single crystal silicon, put down, spin
it very slowly and cool it so then more silicon solidifies onto the single crystal. And that gets pulled up real slowly and it
creates what’s called the boule. These boules are cut with wire
saws and creates a lot of sawdust, so we lose roughly 50% of the very expensive silicon
when we do the sawing process. We developed something called the ice machine,
where we reproduce this idea that if you feed in cold water, cool it from above with liquid
nitrogen, and then pull out very, very thin sheets of ice, like paper thin. Now what we want to do is to do the same for
silicon, and what we’re working on is called the horizontal ribbon growth process. Silicon, just like ice, would float when it
solidifies. So we could melt the silicon in one area,
have it flow down to another area. They will simulate the idea of a cold winter
day, cool it down and pull it out very, very slowly as it freezes in from behind. We hope to have a demonstration ready within
three to four years, I think is a reasonable time frame. In the near future, we’re going to see solar
energy taking off in a larger and larger way and really taking over in terms of supplying
electricity.

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