Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Anti-aging elixir for solar cells

03.07.2012
Photovoltaic modules deliver power without risks to the environment and climate. But solar-power is expensive. Therefore, it is imperative that the modules last as long as possible, 25 years or more. Fraunhofer researchers in the USA are now investigating materials to protect solar cells from environmental influences to meet that goal.

Sometimes it‘s just a couple of cents that decide the success or failure of a technology. As long as solar power, for instance, is still more expensive than energy extracted from fossil fuels, photovoltaics will not be competitive on the broad open market.


In this mechanical test stand the researcher examines the quality of silicone-encased solar modules. (© Fraunhofer CSE)

“Power generation from solar energy continues to be reliant on public subsidies – this is no different in the USA than in Germany,” explains Christian Hoepfner, Scientific Director of the Fraunhofer Center for Sustainable Energy Systems CSE in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. “If we want renewable energy to penetrate the global market over the long term, then we must ensure it gets cheaper.”

There are no silver bullets to reach this target: Efficiency cannot be arbitrarily increased, and it is expensive to produce solar cells and modules. If you want to change something here, you have to solve a puzzle with many variables: Engineering teams around the world are searching for new technologies and production methods to make cells and modules cheaper, more efficient, more durable and reliable.

Silicone – steady and resilient
Silicone is one of the promising materials. It is a highly unusual substance – neither inorganic crystal nor organic polymer – but related to both. While PV modules have been encapsulated with silicones, until now, however, they were not widely used for laminating solar modules. Lamination is a protective coating that surrounds the fragile silicon wafer. Today most manufacturers of photovoltaic cells use ethylene-vinyl acetate, or EVA for short.

In order to determine if silicone could replace the ethylene-vinyl acetate a team of experts worked together: researchers from Fraunhofer and from Dow Corning Corporation, the world‘s largest manufacturer of silicones used in medical technology, cosmetics, the automotive industry, paper processing and electronics. The scientists coated photovoltaic cells with liquid silicone. “When the silicone hardens, it encases the cells; the electronic components thus have optimal protection,” says project Manager Rafal Mickiewicz. The experts at CSE constructed prototypes from the silicone-laminated cells, and tested these photovoltaic modules in a climate chamber at low temperatures and under cyclic loads. Afterwards the module performance was tested with a light flasher. In addition the researchers used electro-luminescence-imaging for the detection of micro cracks. A comparison of the results with those of conventional solar modules proved that silicone-encased photovoltaic modules are more resistant to cyclic loading of the type modules experience in strong winds, in particular at a frosty minus 40 degrees Celsius.

“Dow Corning Corporation collaborated with researchers at the Fraunhofer CSE Photovoltaic Modules Group for two years. This collaboration significantly improved our understanding of the materials requirements of our solar modules, particularly in regard to sustainability and output,” concludes Andy Goodwin, Global Science & Technology Manager, Dow Corning Solar Solutions.

In the meantime, the tests have been published at the 26th European Photovoltaics Solar Energy Conference in 2011. “The study results demonstrate that silicone lamination is well-suited for certain applications, because the silicone protects the fragile components on the inside well, and moreover, withstands severe temperature fluctuations. With this technology we can, for instance, make modules with thin Si cells more robust,” concludes Mickiewicz.

Dr. Christian Hoepfner | Fraunhofer-Institute
Further information:
http://www.fraunhofer.de/en/press/research-news/2012/july/anti-aging-elixir-for-solar-cells.html

More articles from Materials Sciences:

nachricht Scientists predict a new superhard material with unique properties
18.06.2018 | Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology

nachricht A sprinkle of platinum nanoparticles onto graphene makes brain probes more sensitive
15.06.2018 | University of California - San Diego

All articles from Materials Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: AchemAsia 2019 will take place in Shanghai

Moving into its fourth decade, AchemAsia is setting out for new horizons: The International Expo and Innovation Forum for Sustainable Chemical Production will take place from 21-23 May 2019 in Shanghai, China. With an updated event profile, the eleventh edition focusses on topics that are especially relevant for the Chinese process industry, putting a strong emphasis on sustainability and innovation.

Founded in 1989 as a spin-off of ACHEMA to cater to the needs of China’s then developing industry, AchemAsia has since grown into a platform where the latest...

Im Focus: First real-time test of Li-Fi utilization for the industrial Internet of Things

The BMBF-funded OWICELLS project was successfully completed with a final presentation at the BMW plant in Munich. The presentation demonstrated a Li-Fi communication with a mobile robot, while the robot carried out usual production processes (welding, moving and testing parts) in a 5x5m² production cell. The robust, optical wireless transmission is based on spatial diversity; in other words, data is sent and received simultaneously by several LEDs and several photodiodes. The system can transmit data at more than 100 Mbit/s and five milliseconds latency.

Modern production technologies in the automobile industry must become more flexible in order to fulfil individual customer requirements.

Im Focus: Sharp images with flexible fibers

An international team of scientists has discovered a new way to transfer image information through multimodal fibers with almost no distortion - even if the fiber is bent. The results of the study, to which scientist from the Leibniz-Institute of Photonic Technology Jena (Leibniz IPHT) contributed, were published on 6thJune in the highly-cited journal Physical Review Letters.

Endoscopes allow doctors to see into a patient’s body like through a keyhole. Typically, the images are transmitted via a bundle of several hundreds of optical...

Im Focus: Photoexcited graphene puzzle solved

A boost for graphene-based light detectors

Light detection and control lies at the heart of many modern device applications, such as smartphone cameras. Using graphene as a light-sensitive material for...

Im Focus: Water is not the same as water

Water molecules exist in two different forms with almost identical physical properties. For the first time, researchers have succeeded in separating the two forms to show that they can exhibit different chemical reactivities. These results were reported by researchers from the University of Basel and their colleagues in Hamburg in the scientific journal Nature Communications.

From a chemical perspective, water is a molecule in which a single oxygen atom is linked to two hydrogen atoms. It is less well known that water exists in two...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Munich conference on asteroid detection, tracking and defense

13.06.2018 | Event News

2nd International Baltic Earth Conference in Denmark: “The Baltic Sea region in Transition”

08.06.2018 | Event News

ISEKI_Food 2018: Conference with Holistic View of Food Production

05.06.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Novel method for investigating pore geometry in rocks

18.06.2018 | Earth Sciences

Diamond watch components

18.06.2018 | Process Engineering

New type of photosynthesis discovered

18.06.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>