Nines Photovoltaics has developed a novel UNIVERSAL silicon wafer etching technology designed to meet the specific requirements of the PV solar cell manufacturing industry.

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The ADE (Atmospheric Dry Etching) technology provides a new way of carrying out  dry gaseous etching without the limitations of other common vacuum plasma based technologies. The ADE process works at atmospheric pressure and does not require a plasma or the containment of a vacuum. It provides the solar cell manufacturing industry with a viable alternative to the long standing incumbent wet etching process, enabling the high throughput production of solar cells, now and into the future. ADE delivers superior etching rates and its specific cost of ownership is highly competitive for capacity production scenarios.


The solar silicon wafers are processed in an in-line fashion, through the open ended ADE reactor, this allows for the continuous pass through of wafers with only a single side of the wafer being processed. This decoupling ensures that each side of the wafer can receive a specific treatment, as required in most advanced solar cell architectures. An etching gas mixture is thermally activated in order to dissociate the molecules. The etchant is then delivered to the wafers through a specifically engineered distribution device in order to create the required etch depth, texture and uniformity.


The atmospheric nature of the ADE process allows for a very high etching rate. Typically, a wafer can be etched in less than a minute using 30%  concentrated Fluorine (F2) and in a few seconds using 100% F2,(as compared to 1 to 20 minutes for a wet etch tool). This impressive etch rate combined with the open design of the Nines reactor enables the ADE technology to deliver a high wafer throughput that can meet the current and future requirements of the PV industry. The ADE reactor technology can easily be scaled, without any of the constraints associated with vacuum based plasma systems.


Several types of texture can be obtained using ADE, from nano-features (traditionally obtained with vacuum based RIE etchers reffered to as "black silicon"), to micro-size textures (similar to the wet etch). ADE is also compatible with any type of silicon wafer and does not require specific chemistries; one tool is suitable for all substrates (mono,multi, quasi-mono, diamond wire-cut or slurry cut), including low cost substrates and thin epitaxial layers. It provides an enabling solution for diamond wire cut mc-Si wafers. The mc-Si wafers cut using diamond-wire can not be textured with traditionnal wet chemistry. ADE provides an alternative dry solution, faster and cheaper than RIE. The etching chemistry does not produce any high global warming potential gases, and there is no water involved in the texturing process.


Black silicon Diamond wire cut mc-Si ADE textured wafers