Solar energy has been revolutionary. It has changed the way we live and how we view electricity production. With the advancement of technology, the generation of electricity has also improved by leaps and bounds. Technology pushes both functions and efficiency of electricity generation. The goal is keep improving the design of solar panel, making flexible integration with other applications pretty easy to undertake. Almost 90% of solar panels used worldwide are made from crystalline solutions (C-Si). This consists of monocrystaline and multicrystaline solutions. According to data from 1990 up till 2014, the rest of the 10% of solar panels are made using thin film technology.
What is thin film technology
Thin film technology uses cadmium telluride, copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS) and amorphous silicon. This technology has proved to be very efficient. In terms of cell efficiency, the three materials have a range of between 13%-20.4% with CIGS being the most efficient and amorphous silicon coming in third place. Looking at cell module efficiency, the range is between 8.0%-14.5% with the same rank of as it was in the cell efficiency range (amorphous silicon coming in third place while CIGS tops the list).
Advantages of thin film technology
Thin film technology has a lot of advantages. Amorphous silicon can be used in small devices like the calculator. On the other hand, cadmium telluride is considered to be excellent for solar panel production because of its low cost. CIGS has the advantage of being the most efficient of them all.
How thin film solar cells are made
Thin film solar cells and modules are manufactured in unique ways. In fact, both cells and modules are manufactured in the same production line while making rigid thin films. The cell is made on a glass substrate and electric connections are created in situ (monolithic integration). The substrate is then laminated by an encapsulant on the back and front. They mostly use another sheet of glass. When making a flexible thin film, there is no much difference. Deposition of photoactive layer and other layers necessary is done on a flexible substrate. Monolithic integration will be used if the material used as a substrate is an insulator. If it’s a conductor then an entirely different method of electrical connection is used. Assembly of cells into modules is done by the lamination of transparent flouropolymer on the front. The other side is fitted with a polymer suitable for bonding.
Thin film solar cells and modules are here to stay and with technological advancement, the design of solar panels that offers the best efficiency possible can be attained. There are vast changes and improvements in recent years with companies now focusing on thin film solar panels as the future of this industry.