Project Name: Improving Solar Panel Durability through Novel Panel Designs and Advanced Manufacturing Equipment
Funding Opportunity: PVRD2
SETO Subprogram: Photovoltaics
Location: Westford, MA
SETO Award Amount: $600,000
Awardee Cost Share: $150,000
Principal Investigator: Andrew Gabor
This project is conducting a fundamental study on the nature of cracked cells in crystalline silicon solar panels with the goal of improving module materials and designs to make them more resilient against crack initiation, propagation, and degradation over time due to the electrical isolation of cell segments. Key areas of investigation include determining the effects of accelerated lifetime testing on modules in inducing power loss due to cell cracking, and how these effects can be mitigated.
The research team is using finite element modeling to inform the design of the module elements and the choice of materials. Module durability testing work will use mechanical load testing equipment in both static and cyclic modes with simultaneous electroluminescence imaging of cell cracks, which allows cracks appear as dark lines in the image and isolated regions appear dark. The team will also perform environmental chamber exposure to develop quicker and more relevant tests to address the issues of both the initial formation of cell cracks as well as subsequent opening of the cracks.
This project will inspire new modules that are less likely to crack, and if they do, are less likely to contribute to power loss. The field tests conducted under this project will provide longer-term data on cracks to assist the photovoltaic community in better assessing their impact and further developing appropriate solutions.