Air Liquide has completed a year-long project when its R&D laboratory for the solar industry was inaugurated. The company first invested in the centre on September 1st 2011.

Air Liquide’s early involvement in supplying the solar photovoltaic industry has helped the company establish leadership in the photovoltaic market, supplying gases, equipment and services to eight of the top 10 leaders and more than 150 customers worldwide.

This investment, which consists of a crystalline solar cell manufacturing and characterisation line, will allow Air Liquide to fully develop and assess new ideas and concepts designed to improve the performance and reduce the manufacturing costs of crystalline solar cells, and thereby helping to bring solar energy closer to grid parity.

Crystalline silicon remains the dominant technology among the various photovoltaic cell technologies, representing 85% of worldwide production in terms of power output. Even though it is the most mature technology, crystalline silicon-based solar panels have recently made outstanding progress in energy conversion efficiency, and show strong potential for further improvement.

In 2011, at the time of the investment, Air Liquide acquired the Silexiumcoating technology and associated IP from Sixtron, a Canadian company. The objective is to further develop this technology, leveraging the relationship Air Liquide has already established with its customers through joint development programs. The new pilot line will allow Air Liquide to fully demonstrate and optimise new materials and processes adapted to each customer’s needs. The pilot line will be located in Air Liquide’s Corporate R&D center near Saclay, west of Paris, France, and will be run by a pool of scientists experienced in PV technologies .

Speaking in 2011 Francisco Martins, Vice-President World Business Line Electronics of the Air Liquide Group, declared, “The acquisition of the Silexium™ technology and the investment in an R&D pilot line demonstrate Air Liquide’s commitment to the continued development of new supply solutions for the PV market and its support for the development of clean energies.”

“The photovoltaic business is at the crossroads of energy and the environment, and requires high-tech solutions, three growth drivers for the Air Liquide Group.”

This crystalline solar cell manufacturing line will be used to fully test and evaluate new molecules and processes adapted to the needs of each client. The research being undertaken seeks to improve the performance of solar cells while lowering the cost production per watt, with the aim of making solar energy more competitive.

A pool of scientists with experience in photovoltaic technologies will run the research effort carried out at the Air Liquide Group R&D center located on Plateau de Saclay, near Paris, France.

Air Liquide is the world’s leading supplier of gases, advanced molecules and services for the solar industry.