Linde Gases, a division of The Linde Group, announced the signing of a significant long-term supply contract with Schüco TF, Germany's largest thin-film silicon photovoltaics (PV) module manufacturer, to deliver on-site fluorine (F2) to its new thin-film module mass production site in Großröhrsdorf, eastern Germany. The expansion of Linde's patented on-site fluorine technology to Schüco TF's second manufacturing facility follows a successful production scale implementation on the 40MW Osterweddingen site since March 2009.
As part of the agreement, Linde will construct the largest electronics F2 production plant in Europe, which will see the complete elimination of the use of nitrogen trifluoride (NF3), a greenhouse gas with a global warming potential 17,200 times greater* than carbon dioxide (CO2) from Schüco TF's manufacturing process. Linde will help Schüco TF to reduce its emissions by 103,200 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year.
Linde has seen an increasing number of customers adopt on-site F2 as a more productive and energy-efficient alternative to NF3 for the cleaning of Plasma Enhanced Chemical Vapor Deposition (PECVD) chambers for PV and TFT-LCD manufacturing due to concerns over the environmental impact of NF3 and potential legislation that could restrict its use.
Carl Jackson, Head of Fluorine Business at Linde Gases Division, said: "Linde and Schüco TF have demonstrated their leadership and foresight in helping the thin-film PV industry to reach a watershed moment. Green energy will only get the green light once the entire supply and manufacturing chain works together to minimise the environmental impact of this sector."
On-site F2 technology at Großröhrsdorf will improve solar module production and increase profitability by removing any risk of unabated emissions, reducing non-productive cleaning time and improving throughput. 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.
Prof. Dr. Stiebig, General Manager for Photovoltaics at Schüco TF comments: "The benefits of this agreement for us are three-fold: we can reduce the cost and increase the efficiency of the module production facility whilst radically minimising the environmental impact during the manufacturing process of our thin-film solar panels."
Schüco TF is the tandem junction (µc-Si) extension in addition to the Malibu single junction (a-Si) PV module production for the Schüco Group. Both Malibu and Schüco TF are 100% affiliate companies of the Schüco Group.
In 2008, a Joint Development Programme between Malibu and Linde was established for the development of advanced gas technology to improve cell efficiency and throughput. The mutual cooperation between Linde and Malibu has the unique advantage that the influence of materials can be tested on full-size production lines in order to enable a straightforward transfer into industrial production. The continued partnership has seen the development of the Malibu R&D centre in Bielefeld and the transition from a-Si production up to µc-Si production at the Großröhrsdorf facility.
Linde is committed to further innovation to help extend the range of applications for F2 and to help its customers improve productivity and lower manufacturing costs while reducing their carbon footprint. Over thirty Linde on-site fluorine generators are installed on customer sites worldwide.