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Unique coating equipment from Germany

A regular on the global exhibition circuit, the family-owned company VON ARDENNE has just returned from Intersolar, where delegates were able to get a closer look at its range
of advanced vacuum coating equipment for the photovoltaic and solar thermal industry. We caught up with the firm and found out for ourselves what makes it tick.

Today, VON ARDENNE’s key technologies are magnetron sputtering and electron beam evaporation and it holds more than 600 patents worldwide. However, the company was founded in 1991 as a spin-off of the former Manfred von Ardenne Research Institute in Dresden, Germany.

A consequence of this was that the expertise in plasma and electron beam technologies that had been acquired over decades could be used and developed further.

The company owes its name to Manfred von Ardenne, a highly gifted, visionary and tenacious scientist and inventor born in 1907. His contribution to inventions such as the radio receiver, the television, and the scanning electron microscope is extraordinary. He held approximately 600 patents in radio and television technology, electron microscopy, nuclear plasma, and medical technologies and was the author of countless books and publications – all done without holding a degree or even a high school diploma. It was thanks to his farsightedness and hard work that he progressed from school dropout to famous scientist.

Today, the company offers high precision vacuum coating equipment such as the PIA|nova coating platform. It is an industry-proven solution for applying thin metal and transparent oxide (TCO) layers on thin-film and wafer based solar cells.
The main applications are functional layers for copper indium and gallium (CIGS) thin-film cells (such as the back contacts, which are based on molybdenum including different barrier layers; the precursor, which is based on copper, indium and gallium for all technologies using a sequential precursor and selenisation process; and front contacts, which are based on intrinsic zinc oxide and aluminum doped zinc oxide).

Furthermore, it is used in cadmium telluride and silicon based thin-film cells (back contacts) and crystalline solar cells using hetero junction with intrinsic thin layer (HIT) technology (including transparent conductive oxide and metal contact layers).

Meanwhile, the PIA|nova is based on the company’s proven inline coater design.
The substrates are coated in a continuous process, and once the process setup is complete, the coater can run for days without interruption. The length of the campaign time depends mostly on the sputtering target material thickness and utilization and on the target design itself. Apart from magnetrons with planar targets, VON ARDENNE offers rotatable magnetrons.
Using rotatable instead of planar targets can contribute tremendously to prolonging the campaign time as the target utilization of up to 85% is much higher compared to planar targets. That means that more target material can be used for the coating processes before the targets need to be exchanged. Additionally – based on the sputter characteristics of rotatable magnetrons – the particle behavior is much better compared to planar targets.


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