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Design of a solar module Page 1 of 2

Design of a solar module

Several individual solar cells are grouped into a solar module for a variety of reasons:

l To protect the solar cells against mechanical stress.


l To protect the connections against corrosion.

A further advantage of the solar module is its easy handling during installation.

Design of a solar module

Front pane

The solar module's front pane usually comprises glass meeting special standards.
The glass must be highly transparent to sunlight and reflect just a minimal proportion
of it. For these attributes to be retained over the solar module's entire life cycle, the
glass must also be resistant to ultraviolet light. Moreover, the front pane must prevent
an ingress of water and water vapour which would notably shorten the solar module's
service life.

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Design of a solar module Page 2 of 2

Encapsulation

Encapsulation serves, firstly, as a mechanical link between the individual solar cells
and, secondly, as an optical bridge between the front pane and the solar cells in order
to prevent unnecessary losses in solar radiation. The encapsulation must possess the
same optical attributes as the front pane. Ethylene vinylacetate (EVA) is normally
used for encapsulation.

Rear surface

Like the front pane, the rear surface must also prevent an ingress of water and water
vapour. This surface usually comprises Tedlar or glass.

Socket

The socket is used to connect the solar modules' freewheeling or bypass diodes as
well as the connection lines.

Frame

Usually made of aluminium, the solar module's frame is used, for instance, to protect
the glass during transport and assembly. The frame also makes the composite
structure more rigid and provides mounting points.

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Principle of a solar cell Page 1 of 3

Principle of a solar cell

Solar cells are usually made of silicon which is the second most frequently found
element in the earth's crust. A silicon atom has four valence electrons. In a silicon
crystal, two electrons of neighbouring atoms form a pair in each case. In this state,
the silicon crystal is not conductive, because no free electrons are available for
transporting charge.

When a silicon crystal receives energy in the form of light or heat, for instance, the
energy is also absorbed by the electrons. Once an electron pair has absorbed
enough energy, it breaks up so that the electrons are free to move inside the silicon
crystal. Each electron which has drifted in this manner leaves a "hole" at its original
location in the crystal lattice. The silicon becomes conductive, this property being
known as the intrinsic conductivity of a semiconductor. When the energy supply is
interrupted, each drifting electron releases the energy it previously absorbed and
returns to a free electron hole.

An electrical field can be used to separate the electrons from the electron holes.
Impurity atoms permit an electrical field to be generated inside a semiconductor. For
this purpose, atoms with five electrons each are integrated into one section, known as
n-semiconductor or n-doped. This section bears a slight negative charge with respect
to the pure silicon crystal lattice.

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Atoms with three electrons each are integrated into another section, known as p-
semiconductor or p-doped. This section bears a slight positive charge with respect to
the pure silicon crystal lattice. If the n- and p-semiconductors are brought right next to
each other, a electric field forms in the p-n junction arising between the two
semiconductors.

p-n junction
A p-n junction is formed by joining p- and n-semiconductor layers. Electrons from the
n-layer drift across this junction to the p-layer, where they combine with the holes.

Electron Negatively charged atom

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Electron hole Positively charged atom

When electrons leave the n-layer, the atoms remaining there result in a slightly
positive charge in that region. Conversely, the p-layer where the incoming electrons
combine with the holes accumulates a slight negative charge as a result.

This charge separation creates an electric field across the semiconductor junction,
also termed space-charge region.

Photovoltaic effect
When light impinges on the PV cells crystal lattice, the light energy is transfered to
the lattice, where the atoms are excited to form electron-hole pairs. If this happens
outside the p-n junction, the electron-hole pairs re-combine very quickly. Electron-
hole pairs inside the p-n junction are separated by the local electric field. The
resultant electrons drift to the n-layer while the holes drift to the p-layer, causing the
PV cells voltage to build up. If an electrical load is then connected to the cell, a
current begins to flow.

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Types of PV cell Page 1 of 1

Types of PV cell

PV-cells are differentiated by their method of manufacture:

1. Monocrystalline cells

The basic material of these cells is a refined silicon melt whose atoms are all
aligned in the same direction. Crystals are drawn from the silicon melt and sawn
into wafers. Monocrystalline cells are characterized by a homogeneous, nearly
black surface and provide a relatively high level of efficiency (<= 20%).

2. Polycrystalline/multicrystalline cells

The silicon for such cells is first cast into blocks and then sawn into wafers. The
crystalline frost pattern typical of polycrystalline cells forms as the silicon blocks
harden. Polycrystalline cells have a lower efficiency than monocrystalline cells
(<=15%).

3. Amorphous cells / thin-layer solar cells

Amorphous cells are manufactured by vapour-depositing a silicon coating on a


carrier, e.g. a glass disc. Though of low efficiency (<10%), such cells are quite
good at utilizing weak light.

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Manufacturing techniques Page 1 of 1

Manufacturing techniques

The basic material of all solar cells is quartz sand (SiO2), from which silicon (Si) is
produced. As the second most common substance in the earth's crust, quartz sand is
present in accordingly abundant amounts. The silicon is isolated (reduced) by adding
carbon to obtain silicon and CO2 as shown in the formula below.

SiO2 + C = Si + CO2

Though the silicon produced in this manner has a purity of about 98%, this is still not
enough for the manufacture of solar cells. Because additional processes are needed
to raise the silicon's purity to nearly 100%, silicon of this quality is very costly to
produce.

The highly pure silicon is then used to fabricate silicon wafers from which the solar
cells are ultimately manufactured. Silicon wafers can be made using a number of
techniques, depending on the required type of solar cell. The following different
techniques are known at present:

l Casting technique
l Bridgman technique
l Czochralski technique
l Float-zone melting technique
l EFG (edge-defined film-fed growth) technique
l String-ribbon technique

The illustration below shows which technique is used to manufacture which cell types.

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Polycrystalline solar cells Page 1 of 3

Polycrystalline solar cells

Casting technique
In this case, highly pure silicon is liquefied and poured into moulds, where it slowly
cools into a solid silicon blocks. These blocks are then cut into thin wafers whose
crystalline lattice exhibits only small zones of an identical alignment.

Bridgman technique
This technique differs from the previous one simply in terms of the cooling phase: The
mould containing the silicon melt is enclosed by a heating element which is moved up
slowly, causing the silicon to solidify gradually starting at the mould's bottom. As a
result, the crystal lattice's zones of identical alignment are larger than those produced
by the simple casting technique. A pattern typical of polycrystalline solar cells is
created.

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EFG (edge-defined film-fed growth) technique


Like with the Czochralski technique, the silicon is molten in a crucible and maintained
in a liquid state by a heater. However, drawn out of the silicon melt instead of a column
is an octagon with a wall thickness of 280 m and an edge length of 10 cm. The fully
drawn, octagonal silicon tubes are cut at the edges by a laser to form rectangles which
can then be sized to the required length.

String-ribbon technique
Two heat-resistant wires are inserted into a crucible containing silicon melt. When the
wires are drawn out again, the melt stretching between them solidifies. Silicon wafers
of the required lengths are then cut out of the resultant silicon band.

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Monocrystalline solar cells Page 1 of 1

Monocrystalline solar cells

Czochralski technique
The silicon melt is contained in a rotating crucible and maintained in the liquid state by a
heater. A seed crystal on a metal bar defines the alignment of the silicon's crystal lattice. The
seed crystal is immersed into the silicon melt and then drawn back up slowly out of the
crucible whilst twisting in the process. The speed at which the seed crystal is drawn out of the
silicon melt and the melt's temperature determine the resultant crystal's diameter.

Silicon wafers are cut out of the drawn silicon crystal. Because the cut width and wafer
thickness are largely identical however, up to 50% of the drawn crystal is lost.

Float-zone melting
A column of polycrystalline silicon is suspended and rotated in a protective atmosphere. An
induction heater melts down a narrow zone of the silicon column, starting at its bottom. A seed
crystal below the silicon column makes contact with the melt and defines its crystalline
alignment. The induction heater moves up slowly while the melt below solidifies into a
monocrystalline structure. Impurities drift up together with the molten zone and are deposited
at the end of the monocrystal.

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Knowledge test: Photovoltaics Page 1 of 2

Knowledge test: Photovoltaics

Please answer the following questions:

A solar cell converts solar energy (light) into electrical energy. Which principle is
this action based on?

Lenz's law.
Photoelectric effect.
Photovoltaic effect.
Venturi effect.

What is a solar cell made of?

An electric conductor, e.g. copper.


p-type and n-type semiconductor regions.
A p-type or an n-type region.
A combination of an insulator and a conductor.

Which of the following statements concerning a p-n junction are correct?


A p-n junction is in the off-state if no voltage is being
applied.
The junction is produced by a concentration gradient and
an opposing field.
A p-n junction consists of electrically conductive
materials.
A p-n junction is created by pressing together two
differently doped semiconductor layers under high
pressure.

Which process does the photovoltaic effect involve?

A rise in a semiconductor's conductivity brought about by


a supply of energy.
A conversion of light into electrical energy.

A drop in a semiconductor's conductivity brought about

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by heating.

Which part of a solar cell serves as a "source" of charge carriers?

The p-region.
The p-n junction.
The n-region.

Which cell type has the lowest efficiency?

Amorphous cell.
Monocrystalline cell.
Polycrystalline cell.

There are various methods of producing monocrystalline and polycrystalline cells.


However, all these methods have one basic thing in common. What is it?

The casting technique.


A requirement for silicon reduced from quartz sand.
A requirement for highly pure silicon.

Checkanswer

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Solar radiation Page 1 of 1

Solar radiation

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The sun Page 1 of 1

The sun

Mankind's largest inexhaustible source of energy is still the sun, which emits this energy in the form of
solar radiation. On reaching earth, the solar radiation is converted almost entirely into heat energy.
Photovoltaic systems can be used to directly utilize or store the solar radiation.

The sun has the following composition:

l Approximately 80% hydrogen


l Approximately 20% helium
l 0.1% other elements

Nuclear fusion processes in the sun produce solar radiation with an overall power of about 3.8451026 W.
Considered with respect to the sun's surface area, this radiation power results in an emittance of 63,110
kWm-2.

An area of 0.2 square kilometres on the sun annually produces enough solar energy to fully cover our
primary energy requirements on earth. However, only a small portion of the radiated energy actually
reaches the earth.

If we imagine the sun surrounded by a shell with a radius of 150 million km (the average distance between
the sun and the earth's centre), the shell's surface emits the same radiant power as the sun's surface.
However, the distance between the sun and the earth varies over a year, causing the irradiance on the
earth to fluctuate. The average value of the irradiance, also referred to as the solar constant, is E0= 1367
Wm-2.

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Solar radiation on earth Page 1 of 2

Solar radiation on earth

The solar constant introduced in the previous chapter indicates the sun's irradiance outside the earth's
atmosphere. As the radiation passes through this atmosphere, it is attenuated so that the irradiance at the
earth's surface is always less than the value of the solar constant. This attenuation is attributable to

l reflection by the earth's atmosphere


l absorption by the earth's atmosphere
l Rayleigh scattering
l Mie scattering

Reduction through absorption


The atmosphere's various constituents (hydrogen, ozone, oxygen, carbon dioxide) reduce irradiance
through absorption. However, the absorption varies according to wavelength, as shown in the chart below.

Evidently, the absorption is greatest in the range of visible light.

Rayleigh scattering
This scattering is caused by atmospheric molecules whose diameter is much smaller than the solar
radiation's wavelength, the effect becoming stronger as the solar radiation's wavelength decreases.

Mie scattering

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Impurities and dust particles in the atmosphere cause Mie scattering of solar radiation whose wavelength
is smaller than the diameters of the impurities and particles. This effect is stronger at locations where
atmospheric pollution is high (e.g. industrial regions) than where atmospheric pollution is low (e.g. high
mountain ranges).

Solar radiation on earth


Due to scattering, absorption and reflection, the solar radiation at the earth's surface comprises not only
the direct component originating from outer space, but also a diffuse component. The composition of solar
radiation on earth is illustrated below.

The total solar radiation is defined as

EG hor = Edir hor + Ediff hor

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Experiment: Converting light into electricity Page 1 of 2

Experiment: Converting light into electricity

In this experiment, we will demonstrate how a solar cell converts sunlight or electric light into
a different form of energy.

The next animation shows the experiment setup.

Set various irradiances using the dimmer and observe the LED's response.

To achieve the desired results in the experiments here, you must correctly align the radiator. Open the
Ammeter A and Ammeter B virtual instrument via the menu path Instruments | Measuring devices |
Ammeter A and Instruments | Measuring devices | Ammeter B or by clicking on the icons below, and
perform the settings shown in the adjacent tables.

Ammeter A settings
Range: 100 mA
Mode: DC, AV
Shunt: 1 ohm

Ammeter B settings
Range: 100 mA
Mode: DC, AV
Shunt: 1 ohm

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Connect both ammeters to solar modules G1 and G4 as shown in the animation.

Set the radiator's angle to 90 and adjust the irradiance to its maximum value. Slowly rotate the radiator
leftward or rightward until both ammeters indicate a current of about 50 mA. Check the current through
solar modules G2 and G3, and realign the radiator if necessary.

Repeat this procedure until all four solar modules supply a current between 45 and 55 mA.

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Sun's position Page 1 of 3

Sun's position

The sun's exact position is of critical importance in many calculations and applications. According to DIN
5034, two angles are needed to precisely determine the sun's position. The sun's elevation S describes
the angle between the horizon (as viewed by the observer) and the sun's centre. The sun's azimuth S
describes the angle between geographic north and the vertical circle passing through the sun's centre.

However, the sun's elevation and azimuth depend not only on the observer's location, but also the date
and time of observation.

The sun's path in the sky


Because the earth rotates about its own axis, the sun appears to move across the sky if viewed from a
fixed location on earth. The sun's position depends on the observer's coordinates as well as the time of
day and year. The animation below demonstrates how the sun appears to move across the sky.

The sun's position strongly influences the quantity of solar energy which is able to impinge on a solar cell.
Only when the sun's rays fall perpendicularly on the solar cell's surface does the power density at the
surface equal the impinging power density. Any other angle of light incidence reduces the power density at
the solar cell's surface. If the solar cell is aligned in parallel with the solar radiation, the power density at
the cell's surface drops to zero.

Declination
Declination is the angle between the equator and the theoretical line joining the centres of the earth and
sun. Because the earth's north-to-south axis is inclined by an angle of 23.45, the declination varies by
23.45 in the course of a year. The declination reaches its maximum in summer and winter, and 0 in
spring and autumn.

Elevation
The sun's altitude (or elevation) S describes the angle between the horizon (as viewed by the observer)
and the sun's centre.

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Air mass
The air mass represents the proportion of earth's atmosphere which sunlight must travel through before
reaching the earth, compared with the distance travelled when the sun is directly overhead. The air mass
is defined as 1 when the sun is directly overhead, and 0 in outer space.

Air mass (AM) is directly related to the sun's elevation S and calculated using the following equation:

1
AM =
sin S+ 0.50572 (S + 6.07995)-1,6364

Azimuth
The sun's azimuth S is the angle between geographic north and the vertical circle passing through the

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Sun's position Page 3 of 3

sun's centre.

Solar orbit diagrams


A number of algorithms (e.g. DIN, SUNAE, SOLPOS) varying in accuracy have been developed to
determine the sun's elevation and azimuth.

Due to their complexity, these algorithms are very unsuitable for tracking the sun's path in the course of a
day. This problem can be alleviated with the help of solar orbit diagrams which permit ascertainment and
representation of the sun's elevation and azimuth at a particular location and day of year.

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Solar radiation's angle of incidence Page 1 of 3

Solar radiation's angle of incidence

When solar radiation impinges on a horizontal surface, the angle of incidence hor can be determined
directly from the solar elevation using the following equation:

hor = 90 - S

This horizontal angle of incidence is also termed zenith angle Z.

However, not all surfaces are horizontal, instead inclined and possessing an azimuth angle E different to
that of the sun. To determine the angle of incidence gen , a vector s aligned toward the sun is first defined.
The angle between the vector s and the normal (perpendicular to the inclined surface) is then the angle of
incidence gen and calculated as follows:

gen = arccos(-cos S sin E cos(S - E) + sin S cos E)

Irradiance on the inclined plane


The global radiation EG gen impinging on the inclined plane is composed of the following components:

l Direct sky radiation Edir gen


l Diffuse sky radiation Ediff gen
l Sky radiation reflected by the ground Eref gen

Direct sky radiation

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Solar radiation's angle of incidence Page 2 of 3

If we compare a horizontal area with an area needing to absorb the same amount of radiation power but
inclined vertically with respect to the sun, the latter area turns out to be smaller. Accordingly, solar
modules are installed at an angle in order to increase their energy efficiency. If the irradiance on a
horizontal surface is known, the irradiance on an inclined plane can be determined as follows:

Edir gen = Edir hor cos gen / sin S

Increasing energy efficiency through inclination


The ideal inclination of solar cells at central European latitudes is 30 south. Because photovoltaic systems
in this region are often mounted on sloping roofs, the ideal angle cannot always be ensured. As illustrated
below, however, energy losses remain quite low even at large variances to the ideal alignment.

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Solar radiation's angle of incidence Page 3 of 3

The closer a photovoltaic system is located to the equator, the shallower the system's ideal angle of
inclination.

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Experiment: Solar radiation's angle of incidence Page 1 of 3

Experiment: Solar radiation's angle of incidence

In this experiment, we will examine a solar cell's response to the radiated


light's angle of incidence.

The next animation shows the experiment setup.

Open the virtual instrument X/Y recorder via the menu path Instruments | X/Y recorder
or by clicking on the icon below, and perform the settings indicated in the adjacent
table.

X/Y recorder settings


Axis Parameter Maximum Division
X U 4.0 V 0.5 V
Y I 60 mA 5 mA
Y P 0.15 W 0.03 W
Y E 1300 W/m2 100 W/m2

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Using the dimmer, set the radiator to its maximum irradiance.

Record the characteristic using the procedure described next.

1. Set the potentiometer to 0 (short circuit).


2. Commence recording with the "REC" button.
3. Slowly turn the potentiometer to its maximum resistance.
4. Finish recording with the "REC" button.

Adjust the radiator's angle to different values (30, 60, 90, 120, 150) and record the
corresponding characteristic in each case as just described.

Copy the result to the placeholder provided below. For this purpose, position the
mouse pointer over the diagram and click on the right-hand mouse button (copy
function).

Which dependencies do the characteristics indicate?


The current depends on the radiation's angle of

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incidence.
The current does not depend on the radiation's angle of
incidence.
The power does not depend on the radiation's angle of
incidence.
Correct.
The voltage depends on the radiation's angle of
incidence.
The power depends on the radiation's angle of incidence.
The voltage does not depend on the radiation's angle of
incidence.

Check answer

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