Diamond wire-sawn silicon wafers - from the lab to the cell production
Wafers for the PV industry are mainly sawn with a multi-wire slurry saw. This process is slow (it takes almost half a day to complete a cut) and generates a lot of waste: around half the silicon is sawn away and contaminating the slurry, and the wire is worn and has lost strength. After each cut, the slurry has to be cleaned from the silicon debris and the wire has to be exchanged. In contrast, sawing the wafers with a diamond-plated wire is faster, requires only a cooling liquid that is easy to filter from silicon debris and uses a wire that can be kept for several cut. But this new sawing technique only has a chance to develop if the solar cell production lines developed for slurry sawn wafers is capable of processing these diamond-plated wire sawn wafers efficiently. This study focused on the differences of surface properties of wafers cut via a slurry wire-saw and via a diamond-plated wire-saw. From these surface differences, it is possible to explain the differences in cell processing behaviour and to update the cell production line. Finally, it is shown that wafers sawn with a diamond-plated wire can give cells that are as efficient as the slurry sawn wafers, which validates this new diamond-plated wire wafering method for the production of solar cells.