Milestones:Commercialization and Industrialization of Photovoltaic Cells, 1959

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Commercialization and Industrialization of Photovoltaic Cells, 1959

Sharp Corporation pioneered the development and commercialization of photovoltaic (PV) cells for applications ranging from satellites to lighthouses to residential uses. From the beginning of research into monocrystal PV-cells in 1959, to the mass production of amorphous PV-cells in 1983, this work contributed greatly toward the industrialization of photovoltaic technologies and toward the mitigation of global warming.

 Location(s) of Milestone plaque(s):
(ⅰ) Solar System Group, SHARP Corporation
282-1 Hajikami, Katsuragi-shi, Nara, 639-2198 Japan
Phone: +81-745-65-1161, GPS: N 34.47574, E 135.741507
(ⅱ) Corporate Research and Development Group, SHARP Corporation
2613-1 Ichinomoto-cho, Tenri-shi, Nara, 632-8567 Japan
Phone: +81-743-65-1321, GPS: N 34.620162, E 135.843096
(ⅲ) Head Office, SHARP Corporation
22-22 Nagaike-cho, Abeno-ku, Osaka, 545-8522 Japan
Phone: +81-6-6621-1221, GPS: N34.621643, E 135.517143

 In 1954 three researchers at Bell Laboratories published the results of their discovery of the world’s first
practical ‘photovoltaic’ (henceforth abbreviated by ‘PV’) cell which was capable of converting sunlight into electricity, first at 4% and later at 6% conversion-efficiency[1]. In 1959 Sharp Corporation began R&D of silicon monocrystal PV-cells, with mass production starting in 1963[2], and commercialized a variety of mono/multi-crystalline PV-cells for everything
from satellites to lighthouses, and industrial applications to residential use[2]. The annual production capacity has
since grown to 500 MW with plans to double it to over 1GW by constructing additionally a new big plant in Sakai
City in Osaka Prefecture with the start of operations in fiscal 2009, and moreover the cumulative production
volume reached to 2GW at the end of 2007 for the first time in the world. It is estimated that the current world’s
cumulative production volume is 8GW, meaning that Sharp has produced a full one-quarter of that[3].

Sharp’s pioneering works of developing and commercializing PV-cells have been achieved mainly in the fields of consumer electronics, public facilities, space satellites, and industrial and residential applications.
Especially, untiring efforts of the project teams devoted to the development and implementation of PV-technologies
during the long period, ranging from the start of R&D of monocrystal PV-cells in 1959 to the mass production of
amorphous PV-cells in 1983, constructed the firm foundation for the industrialization of PV technologies, as
described in what follows.

Consumer Electronics
Since Sharp had been traditionally strong at consumer products, the commercialization of PV-cells was initiated in
the field of consumer electronics as follows.

World’s First Transistor Radio In 1961 Sharp succeeded in developing a prototype PV-cell,
which was installed in the world’s first transistor radio BX-381 operating on both PV-cell and battery.

Table Clock
In 1963 a project team headed by Dr. Kozabro Baba succeeded in mass production of PV-module S-224
which realized cell conversion-efficiency of 8.8%, with much smaller surface area than the conventional one. Using an improved version of this module S-224, Seiko developed the first PVinstalled table clock in 1966.

The World’s First PV-Installed Calculator and Watch
In 1976 Sharp developed a more efficient monocrystal silicon PV-module S-225, with cell conversion-efficiency of 10.0%, and installed the cell element of S-255 in calculator EL-8026[5], Seiko’s watch ‘Quarts’(see Fig. 3), and Citizen’s watch ‘Solar Cell’[6] for the fist time in the world. In addition, these modules S-224 and S-225 were also applied as power sources for consumer products, such as
(i) transceivers for Mt. Yalung-Kang (at a height of 8,505m in the Himalayas) Mountaineeing Party of
Kyoto University in 1973,
(ii) photometers and electronic shutters of cameras,
(iii) spinning trouble detectors, and
(iv) machinery for safety aid, etc.[7]
g.1.4) PV-installed Calculator Business
Sharp developed a new ‘ultra violet’ PV-cell on the basis of the cell of S-225 in 1979, which acted on
fluorescent light with much reduced surface area. This PV-cell contributed to the commercialization of a
series of wallet type PV-installed calculators, such as EL-826, EL-835, EL-838SE, EL-858, EL-867, EL-
325, EL-350, EL-355, EL-515, etc., in the early 1980s[8]. Thus, Sharp paved the way for a new business
field by introducing wallet type PV-installed calculators.