Solar photovoltaic is the latest and fastest-growing trend in the market. One of the reasons attributed to this is the ability to reduce one’s electricity bills. The environmental benefits are also many and impactful. Understanding solar panel materials and how they work is essential if you are going to adopt solar energy.
Various components make up solar photovoltaics. The most important is the silicon cells. In this article, we are going to look at the solar panel raw materials in detail.
How are Solar Panels Made?
As stated above, the essential components in solar panels are the silicon cells. Silicon is a nonmetal material that possesses conductive properties giving it the ability to convert sunlight into electricity. Once the light comes into contact with silicon, electrons are set in motion. The motion then initiates electricity flow, an effect known as the photovoltaic effect.
Silicon by itself cannot provide you with electricity. However, after wiring and casing, the solar cell’s electrons can escape providing electricity for your home. The silicon comes in various cell structures. Here are the primary materials you will find in solar panel cells.
These are solar cells made using single crystalline silicon. They are unique in their appearance as they often seem colored. Their shape is also cylindrical. For optimization, most manufacturers cut out the four sides of the cells. That is a wasteful process though it gives the solar cells a unique appearance. These cells have high efficiency, and they have the best quality.
They first appeared in public in 1981. The manufacturers do not cut out its four sides, unlike monocrystalline cells. As a result, the manufacturing process is not wasteful.
Instead of cutting the silicon, it is melted and put into square molds. The resulting shapes are perfect squares. Multiple silicon crystals are used in this process. The panels made from this are mid-range both in price and efficiency.
To make these panels, manufacturers stack several photovoltaic layers on top of each other, creating modules. There are various types of thin-film solar cells, and each differs according to the materials used. These are:
- Cadmium Telluride (CdTe): It is the most commonly used thin-film technology at 50% of the market share. These cells contain cadmium, which is less expensive than regular silicon. However, it has high toxicity.
- Amorphous Silicon (a-Si): It is another common type. A-si contains silicon without a crystal structure. However, it is mostly found in small load equipment. It is durable and less toxic than CdTe.
- Copper Indium Gallium Selenide (CIGS): Cells made with these raw materials have reached an efficiency of 22.4% in laboratories.
- Gallium Arsenide (GaAs): The technology used here is costly. Its efficiency record is at 28.9%. However, it is rare and also quite expensive.
After making the unique solar cells, the manufacturers complete the solar building process by connecting the electrical system. They also add an anti-reflective coating and house the entire system in a glass or metal casing.
Solar Panel Parts
Apart from the materials used to make the solar cells, other materials make up the solar panels. Solar panels comprises of six different pieces, which are:
- Silicon solar cells
- Glass sheet for casing
- Metal frame (mostly aluminum)
- Standard 12V Wire
- bus wire
The glass casing at the front of the panel adds durability as well as protection from silicon PV. Under the glass’s exterior, there is another casing which insulates. You will also find a protective black sheet whose function is to limit heat wastage and the humidity found in the panel. Insulation is crucial for preventing a drop in efficiency due to so much heat.
Solar panels have gained popularity across the commercial scene to residential. Most solar panels take about 20% of sunlight, converting into the energy that we use in homes. There are significant advances that continue to happen in this industry. These innovations advance the overall quality of the cells as well as improve efficiency.
Further research and development of solar technology will lead to lower prices and much more availability worldwide. As the industry grows, there is hope to see more and more alternatives to crystalline silicon cells. Such could take the shape of solar windows that can mimic photosynthesis, small amorphous silicon balls cells, and many others.
Other notable innovations could surround minimizing shade or using prismatic lenses to focus sunlight.
Now it is time to go solar before the scrapping of investment solar credit in 2022. Go solar today and enjoy free energy from the sun after the initial installation cost. You can fill the free solar quote form to get an estimate of the size and price of solar panel system that can sustain your home or business.