Semiconductor Grade Alumina Ceramics Finds New Application in the Solar Panel Industry

Morgan Advanced Materials’ (MTC’s) semiconductor-grade 99% alumina ceramic has found new application in the burgeoning solar panel industry.

Leading OEM Oerlikon Solar has selected the company to supply precision-engineered, high-purity ceramic bars used for lifting and stacking of glass panels in its thin-film deposition photovoltaic (PV) machine.

“Ceramic is an alternative to stainless steel, which has a tendency to buckle and bend in very high temperatures,” explains a spokesperson from Oerlikon. “We use ceramic bars in machines running at 200C because of its excellent thermal and chemical stability.”

As the leading provider of thin-film PV silicon solar solutions, Oerlikon Solar is playing a major role in this fast-growing market. The company says that more than 300,000 solar modules have already been produced using Oerlikon equipment, and that it expects sales of CHF 700 million in 2008 – more than double the previous year’s figure.

MTC’s high-grade alumina is an ideal choice for the thin-film PV deposition process. Its use in the semiconductor industry has proven it to be reliably inert, so it does not react with the process gases to contaminate the work, and its thermal stability allows it to be used at high temperatures.

“The manufacturing challenge is to produce a consistent flatness and parallelism over the 1.2m length of the bar,” explains Yannick Galais, Commercial Manager, MTC Rugby. “We have the capability to achieve flatness of less than 0.01mm and parallelism of less than 0.05mm, with a mirror polish finish.”

Morgan Advanced Materials designs and manufacturers a broad range of advanced, bespoke, engineered ceramic components, including various components for the solar industry including bars, pins and rollers.

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