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The photovoltaic (PV) cell was manufactured in RFMD's existing high-volume, six-inch GaAs wafer fabrication facilities in Greensboro, NC, with no fabrication equipment modifications. This achievement represents the first in a series of milestone achievements anticipated by RFMD related to the commercialization of high-performance multijunction PV cells.
RFMD is a pioneer in compound semiconductor manufacturing with a proven ability to commercialize new technologies. On July 1, 2009, RFMD announced it had entered into a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to develop a commercially viable and high volume-capable compound semiconductor-based process for high-performance multijunction PV cells.
NREL Director Dan Arvizu said, "NREL's collaboration with RFMD demonstrates our commitment to developing the best technologies for renewable energy and aligning with the most capable partners to commercialize and deploy each technology. We applaud RFMD's successful achievement of this first technical performance milestone."
Bob Bruggeworth, president and CEO of RFMD, said, "By combining NREL's technology leadership and decades of research with RFMD's industry-leading cost structure and technical expertise in commercializing high-performance, reliability-proven compound semiconductors, we are accelerating the commercialization of a next-generation process technology that promises the solar industry's lowest cost, highest-performance PV cells."
Alfonso Velosa, Research Director, Semiconductors, Gartner, said, "The semiconductor industry continues to demonstrate its ability to innovate and produce lower cost products that enable nascent industries to emerge. Semiconductor firms have the potential to change the dynamics in the concentrated PV market, since they may be able to produce low cost, high efficiency solar cells on their existing, depreciated equipment and robust manufacturing processes. Within a few years the concentrated PV market may be able to deliver large volumes of renewable electricity, based in part on obtaining large volumes of high quality -- yet low cost -- solar cells, from 'bankable' manufacturers."
RFMD achieved this PV cell milestone in the Foundation Phase of the agreement, during which the capability to manufacture basic PV cells at RFMD's manufacturing facilities is being established. After the Foundation Phase, a Technology Demonstration Phase will begin, during which PV cells leveraging NREL's IP and technology will be fabricated at RFMD's manufacturing facilities. The final phase of the agreement is the Production Readiness Phase, during which RFMD's high-volume, six-inch fabs will demonstrate high-performance PV cells with high yields, high reliability, high reproducibility and low cost.
The successful execution of RFMD's multi-year agreement with NREL is expected to result in the high-volume production of PV cells in RFMD's fabs as early as calendar year 2012, using technology capable of best-in-class solar cell conversion efficiency. NREL's technology has demonstrated one of the world's highest reported solar cell conversion efficiencies, at 40.8 percent, and continued substantial improvements in efficiency are anticipated.