PV Science

Peel-and-Stick Thin-Film Solar Panels
PV couche mince - Matériaux
Mercredi, 26 Décembre 2012 00:00

Flexible thin-film solar panels have been in the focus of photovoltaics researchers for quite some time. The realm of applications for the widespread heavy, rigid solar panels is limited, and the technology is unsuitable for the design of wearable devices that would be integrated in clothing, for instance. Now, researchers at Stanford University in California (US) have succeeded in developing the world’s first peel-and-stick thin-film solar cells.

Unlike standard thin-film solar cells, peel-and-stick thin-film solar cells do not require any direct fabrication on the final carrier substrate. The pioneering process circumvents the challenges associated with putting solar cells on unconventional materials. According to the Stanford researchers, “Nonconventional or ‘universal’ substrates are difficult to use for photovoltaics because they typically have irregular surfaces and they don’t do well with the thermal and chemical processing necessary to produce today’s solar cells.” The peel-and-stick process not only yields great potential for completely new ways to attach flexible solar devices, but it also can reduce their general cost and weight — without losing any of the original cell efficiency.

A unique sandwich

The new process involves a unique silicon, silicon dioxide and metal sandwich composition. First, a 300-nanometer film of nickel (Ni) is deposited on a silicon/silicon dioxide (Si/SiO2) wafer. Thin-film solar cells are then deposited on the nickel layer utilizing standard fabrication techniques, and covered with a layer of protective polymer. A thermal release tape is then attached to the top of the thin-film solar cells to augment their transfer off of the production wafer and onto a new substrate.

The solar cell is now ready to peel from the wafer. To remove it, the wafer is submerged in water at room temperature and the edge of the thermal release tape is peeled back slightly, allowing water to seep into and penetrate between the nickel and silicon dioxide interface.

The solar cell is thus freed from the hard substrate, but still attached to the thermal release tape. Zheng and team heat the tape and solar cell to 90°C for several seconds, and the cell can then be applied to virtually any surface using double-sided tape or other adhesive. Finally, the thermal release tape is removed, leaving just the solar cell attached to the chosen substrate.

Peel-and-stick test

Tests have demonstrated that the peel-and-stick process reliably leaves the thin-film solar cells wholly intact and functional. Furthermore, the silicon wafer typically remains undamaged and clean after removal of the solar cells and can be reused.

While other research teams have been successful in fabricating thin-film solar cells on flexible substrates before, those efforts have required modifications of existing processes or materials. The Stanford scientists, however, succeeded without modifying any existing processes, facilities or materials, which could make the technology significantly more commercially viable. The array of substrates that could be used with the peel-and-stick photovoltaics also seems to be more diverse than with previous approaches. Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering Xiaolin Zheng says, “Now you can put them on helmets, cell phones, convex windows, portable electronic devices, curved roofs, clothing – virtually anything.”

 

Source : Solar Novus Today

 

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