Solar3D Inc., Santa Barbara, Calif., the developer of a three-dimensional solar cell technology to maximize the conversion of sunlight into electricity, says it has successfully fabricated an initial prototype of its 3D solar cell using commercially available equipment from Panasonic. The company's recently developed low-cost fabrication process was applied successfully for the creation of 3D light trapping and light converting nanostructures on a silicon wafer.

Jim Nelson, CEO of Solar3D, said in a press release, “The great challenge for us was to create a design that could be manufactured economically. Through the dedicated efforts of Dr. Changwan Son, director of technology at Solar3D, and his team, and with guidance from Professor Nadir Dagli of University of California at Santa Barbara, we have developed an innovative and low-cost process to make these structures. We are filing an additional patent application to protect our proprietary fabrication process.”

“Since we launched Solar3D a few years ago, we have seen an increasing number of researchers around the world experimenting with light trapping solar cell designs, confirming that we are on the right track. Many of the new developments are in academia using non-commercial fabrication processes and technologies. We have made important breakthroughs using commercial mass production equipment and processes. We believe conventional flat 2D solar cell designs are a thing of the past. The next level of performance will be found in 3D, which will finally unleash the full potential of converting sunlight to electricity for the benefit of the world.”

The company's analysis indicates that a typical 17% efficient solar cell performs more like a 5% efficient cell when light is shining 20 degrees from the side, such as during the morning or evening hours. Due to an innovative wide-angle light collection feature, the company estimates that its Solar3D cell can maintain a high 25% efficiency for a longer period of time, over the course of a day and year. This translates into 200% more power than conventional solar cells and a system payback period approximately half the time of the current solar technologies.