First Solar Seeking Efficiency Boost With Intermolecular

First Solar Inc., the biggest maker of thin-film solar products, is licensing technology from Intermolecular Inc. to improve the performance of its panels.

First Solar announced the two-year collaboration in a statement today. The deal extends an existing agreement. Ted Meyer, a spokesman for the Tempe, Arizona-based company, wouldn’t provide terms in an e-mail.

First Solar is seeking to raise the efficiency of its cadmium telluride solar-cells, the amount of energy in sunlight that’s converted into electricity. The company expects the partnership to yield “substantial gains” that go beyond previously announced plans, according to the statement.

The effort will augment the company’s existing research and development capabilities, enabling “better performance and faster time-to-market,” Raffi Garabedian, First Solar’s chief technology officer, said in the statement.

First Solar said Jan. 17 it reached an efficiency record of 14.4 percent using panels produced with factory equipment. Solar manufacturers are working to increase this rate to get more power from each panel and reduce the cost of solar energy.

First Solar’s cadmium telluride panels compete with products made from polysilicon, a technology that’s generally more efficient. San Jose-based SunPower Corp. the largest U.S. maker of polysilicon-based solar products, sells panels with efficiency rates of 20.1 percent.

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