RF Micro Devices Inc. (RFMD) announced it has entered into a cooperative agreement with the US 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 photovoltaic (PV) cells.

Under the terms of a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA), NREL's subject matter knowledge and innovation experience will be combined with RFMD's technical expertise in volume manufacturing of high performance, reliability proven compound semiconductors at RFMD's wafer fabrication facilities (fab), for the purpose of developing a production capable process technology for high performance photovoltaic (PV) cells. NREL has decades of research experience and expertise in PV cell technology, and RFMD is a pioneer and industry leader in compound semiconductor manufacturing with a proven ability to commercialize new technologies.

The successful execution of the multi-year CRADA is expected to result in the production of PV cells in RFMD's high volume compound semiconductor fabs, as early as calendar year 2012, using technology that is 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.

"Working with RFMD to commercialize PV cells will help us realize our laboratory's mission of developing and commercializing advanced, next-generation energy technologies," said NREL Director Dan Arvizu.

Bob Bruggeworth, President and CEO of RFMD, said, "We are very pleased to be collaborating with NREL to leverage our wafer manufacturing expertise and cost structure to manufacture high performance photovoltaic cells available in high volumes, with high quality and reliability and at greatly reduced cost. RFMD's industry-leading wafer fabrication capability and expertise in commercializing compound semiconductors, combined with NREL's technology leadership and decades of research, uniquely position us to accelerate the commercialization of this next-generation technology. We expect our expertise and scale will positively impact the market for concentrated photovoltaic cells, and we are proud to support our national efforts related to clean energy."

During the CRADA, technical representatives from both RFMD and NREL will collaborate at NREL and in RFMD's facilities in Greensboro, NC. The CRADA will be accomplished in three phases.