Delivering a major step forward in sustainable solar power, Malibu today launched the world's first thin-film solar module factory that completely eliminates the use of nitrogen trifluoride (NF3), a greenhouse gas with a significant global warming potential, from the manufacturing process.
Working in close collaboration with researchers from technology provider Linde Gases, a division of The Linde Group, scientists at Malibu's development centre in Bielefeld, Germany, have developed an improved cleaning process using on-site generated fluorine (F2) made with Linde's patented technology. As a result, the carbon payback time - the time it takes the use of solar panels to offset the environmental impact of their manufacture - is reduced by up to one year. This improved process will now be rolled out to their new 40MW production facility in Osterweddingen, Germany.
Dean O'Connor, Head of Market Development & Technology at Linde Gases Division, said: "Linde and Malibu have clearly demonstrated their leadership and foresight in helping the thin-film PV industry to reach a watershed moment. Green energy will only be truly green when the entire supply and manufacturing chain works together to minimise environmental impact."
According to Konrad Kaiser, General Manager Malibu, "Not only does the F2 cleaning process eliminate a major source of potential greenhouse gas emissions for our thin-film solar panels, it also speeds our processing and uses less material. This improves the overall sustainability of our product by reducing both environmental impact and manufacturing costs."
In 2008, Linde and Malibu established their Joint Development Programme for the development of advanced material technology to improve cell efficiency, throughput and yield. F2 cleaning is the first of a number of material-based processes to emerge from their successful collaboration. NF3 and other fluorine compounds, such as sulfur hexafluoride (SF6), are used to clean the process tools that make the important silicon photovoltaic layers in thin-film solar modules.