Lisbon, 14th July 2006


The Faculty of Sciences of the University of Lisbon (FCUL) and BP Solar have announced a Research Agreement with the aim to develop a new technology with the potential to reduce the cost of solar cells. A significant obstacle to the expansion and wide scale production of solar electricity remains the high cost of solar cells, more than half of this cost is associated with the price of silicon wafers, (high purity silicon crystals).

Traditionally, the thin (0.2mm) silicon wafers that are used to manufacture silicon solar cells are produced by slicing large high purity silicon ingots. This process wastes more than half of the original material since the wire that is used to saw the ingot into wafers has a thickness similar to that of the finished wafers. In order to avoid material wastage and to reduce costs, an alternative is to seek new methods for the growth of silicon crystals directly in the form of a ribbon. Though a simple idea and first proposed over 40 years ago, the production of good quality silicon ribbon at low cost has proved an extremely difficult problem.

The Group of Semiconductors and PV Applications of FCUL has dedicated much of the last decade researching alternative techniques for the growth of silicon ribbons. This research lead recently to very interesting results with a new technique, which has been filed for an international patent. This new technique, called EZ-Ribbon, is based on a physical process with potential for a significant reduction of the cost of the solar cells.

Recognizing the potential interest of this new technology, BP Solar has decided to finance its development with a €600,000 three year research project as part of the BP Solar Future Technology activity. The Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology is also supporting this project.


About The Faculty of Sciences of the University of Lisbon (FCUL)

FCUL is a State Higher Education School, founded in 1911, and it is part of the Universidade de Lisboa, the only Portuguese university ranked among the 500 best world universities. Its teaching and research activities span across most areas of scientific knowledge, in particular in the area of Energy, where a graduation course on Energy and Environment with emphasis on Renewable Energies is offered.

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About BP Solar

BP Solar is a global company with over 2200 employees focused on harnessing the sun's energy to produce solar electricity. This includes the design, manufacture and marketing of quality solar electric systems for a wide range of applications in the residential, commercial and industrial sectors. With over 30 years of experience and installations in over 160 countries, BP Solar is one of the world's largest solar companies and has manufacturing facilities in the U.S., Spain, India and Australia.  BP Solar is part of BP, one of the world's leading energy companies.

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About BP Group

BP’s main activities are the exploration for and production of crude oil and natural gas; oil refining, marketing, supply and transportation; and manufacturing and marketing of petrochemicals. BP has a growing activity in gas, power and alternative energy businesses. It is the world’s second largest oil and gas company producing around three per cent of the oil and gas consumed in the world through operations in 100 countries and more than 96,000 employees. 

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About Alternative Energy

In 2005, BP announced plans to invest $8 billion over 10 years in a new business called BP Alternative Energy, which aims to extend significantly BP´s capabilities in solar, wind power, hydrogen power and gas-fired power generation. The intention is to build a long-term, material business from cleaner energy – the first energy business dedicated to the development and wholesale marketing and trading of low-carbon power from different technologies at this scale.

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