New NREL Robots Scrutinize Thin Film Solar For Potential Flaws

What’s new at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)? Robots that fabricate and analyze thin film solar for flaws, with significantly greater speed and precision than their human counterparts.

Here, a robot working with silicon can build a semi-conductor on a six-inch-square plate of glass, plastic or flexible metal in about 35 minutes–then go on to test and analyze it for flaws just as quickly, analyzing glitches and measuring light absorption–at the same time it prepares another six plates. And did we mention it does this while maintaining a vacuum seal on the whole operation? It is said this robotic technology accomplishes the work of six labs with just one.


image via National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Since solar companies are always looking for ways to lower the costs associated with manufacturing solar panels while increasing their efficiency, this process seems as if it will capture a lot of attention from the industry in general (which will likely prove important if the US is going to meet the Obama administration’s goal of making solar competitive with fossil fuels by 2015). Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto!

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Susan DeFreitas has covered all manner of green technology for EarthTechling since 2009. She is a graduate of Prescott College for the Liberal Arts and the Environment, and has a background in marketing green businesses. Her work on green living has been featured in Yes! Magazine, the Utne Reader and Natural Home.

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