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Enabling Thin Silicon Technologies for Lower-Cost Next Generation Silicon Solar Photovoltaics Systems

solarpv_marinabarrage

The effort to shift the world’s energy reliance from fossil fuels to renewable sources has spurred companies to reduce the cost and increase the reliability of their solar photovoltaics (PV) products/systems. The use of thinner silicon solar cells in the PV technologies is being widely adopted because it significantly reduces costs. However silicon is a very brittle material, and the thinner the silicon solar cell, the more fragile it becomes. 

solar-modularFigure 1: A typical setup of a Silicon Solar PV Module

solarpv_interconnect

Figure 2: A Silicon Solar PV system => interconnects tend to be one of the sources of stress

Especially coupled with other recent trends in PV packaging technologies such as thinner glass, lighter or no metal frames, increased use of certain polymers for the encapsulation of the silicon cells, etc., the silicon cell is getting more and more susceptible to stress and cracking.

If the thin silicon cells being used to create the next generation silicon solar PV technologies crack, the solar PV systems will operate at lower efficiency, and the resulting increase in resistance and temperature can induce further materials degradation and catastrophic failures in the solar PV modules.

To address these challenges, we will design and research, through this project, novel and innovative solar PV systems, materials and processes which will lower the stress in the silicon cells. These efforts will involve both advanced experimental techniques – to find out where the silicon cell is most stressed and what further aggravates it during production of the PV systems or during their operations in the field – as well as the predictive ability of a state-of-the-art computational modeling/simulation of the solar PV modules.

These will lead to novel technologies that will enable thin silicon solar cell integration into lower cost, more reliable next generation solar PV systems, thus reducing further our over-dependence on fossil-based energy.


Silicon Shortage starts in 2018 !

A recent article in Solid State Technology (Aug 2017) mentioned that the silicon wafer supply for semiconductor device fabrication (which includes solar cells) is forecasted to appreciably lag demand starting 2018  and could remain in shortage through the year 2021 despite investments in China (Excerpt from http://electroiq.com/blog/2017/07/silicon-wafer-shortage-starts-in-2018/ ). This shortage would lead to higher silicon cost also for silicon-based PV companies, and that we’re working on enabling the thinnest silicon solar cell technology for PV industry.

Here are some of our published work in this area:

From cells to laminate: probing and modeling residual stress evolution in thin silicon photovoltaic modules using synchrotron X-ray micro-diffraction experiments and finite element simulations

Sasi Kumar Tippabhotla, Ihor Radchenko, W.J.R. Song, Gregoria Illya, Vincent Handara, Martin Kunz, Nobumichi Tamura, Andrew A.O. Tay and Arief S. Budiman, Prog. Photovolt: Res. Appl. (2017),

DOI: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/pip.2891/full
PDF

Effect of interconnect plasticity on soldering induced residual stress in thin crystalline silicon solar cells

S.K. Tippabhotla, I. Radchenko, Song W. M. Ridhuan, Andrew A.O. Tay, A.S. Budiman , Electronics Packaging Technology Conference (EPTC), 2016 IEEE 18th 734-737. 

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1109/EPTC.2016.7861579
PDF

Probing stress and fracture mechanism in encapsulated thin silicon solar cells by synchrotron X-ray microdiffraction

V.A. Handara, I. Radchenko, S.K. Tippabhotla, Karthic R. Narayanan,  G. Illya,  M. Kunz, N. Tamura, A.S. Budiman , Solar Energy Materials & Solar Cells 162 (2017) 30-40. 

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.solmat.2016.12.028
PDF

 

Career opportunities in Solar PV technology!
Candidates interested in research opportunities specifically in the areas of mechanics of materials in the design of next generation solar PV (photovoltaics) technology are encouraged to contact Professor Budiman through email: asbudiman@sutd.edu.sg.

1. Post-Doctoral Fellow

– Ph.D. degree (required)
– Prior research related to mechanics of materials
– Experience in polymer engineering and/or stress analysis/design/modelling
– Industrial experience in Solar PV (desirable)


2. Research Assistant/s


– M.S. / M.Eng. degree in Materials Engineering
– Experience with equipment / process engineering and/or process control / optimization.
– Industrial experience in Solar PV (desirable)- Industrial experience in Solar PV (desirable)

 

Candidates interested in research opportunities specifically in the computational modelling of mechanics of materials in the design of next generation solar PV (photovoltaics) technology are encouraged to contact Professor Andrew Tay (co-PI at NUS) through email: mpetayao@nus.edu.sg.


1. Research Assistant / Engineer


– M.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering
– Experience with Finite Element Analysis is a must.
– Materials knowledge especially polymer behavior in relation to stress/thermal management in the package (desirable)

 

 

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