Solar markets test endurance of polymer materials

Polymers in Photovoltaics 2015, scheduled for 10-11 February 2015 at the Hotel Nikko in Dusseldorf, Germany

Photovoltaic panels have been used for decades in outer space powering remote satellites and are now reaching long service records on earth, which gives scientist the opportunity to see just how well the materials and modules have performed during their predicted lifespan. The rise of renewable energy is now unstoppable with around 28% of Germany's electricity supply in 2014 coming from green sources. AMI will be bringing together global experts on solar module polymer materials to discuss the optimal solutions for vital components such as encapsulants, backsheets, adhesives and sealants, at Polymers in Photovoltaics 2015, scheduled for 10-11 February 2015 at the Hotel Nikko in Dusseldorf, Germany. In terms of economics, the module manufacturing industry is wary of overcapacity in the markets and the situation will be reviewed by Stefan de Haan of IHS.

Potential induced degradation is one of the sources of concern in solar modules and Hanwha Q Cells has studied the occurrence and the influence of encapsulant materials. From India, Renewsys has looked at the cure of encapsulants, while in China Guangzhou Bothleader Electrical Materials has examined the effect of the crosslinking agent on the properties of the EVA encapsulant. There are new EVA encapsulants in production from Encapsulantes Valor Anadido of Spain. Researchers at Ofi, the Austrian Research Institute for Chemistry and Technology have compared the performance of different encapsulants and the ISFH in Germany has evaluated encapsulation materials for module-level processing. Polyolefin encapsulants are being marketed as the next generation of materials and Mitsui Chemicals Tohcello has data on performance improvement of modules using polyolefins.

Backsheets play a major role in the durability and performance of modules. In Taiwan, AU Optronics (Benq Solar) has investigated backsheet and module endurance. The technical director of Krempel has studied backsheet reflectance as a way to improve module efficiency and Toray Films Europe together with Filmcutter SpA has produced a new generation of backsheets with an innovative PET monolayer film. Amcor Flexible is entering this market with innovative solutions, while the Fraunhofer Center for Silicon Photovoltaics (CSP) has worked on fast quality testing of high barrier films.

The technology of the future for photovoltaics is the organic photovoltaics with active polymers replacing silicon: Merck Chemicals has reviewed the stability of these solar cells.

Photovoltaic technology is being adopted at a fast rate in the Middle East and other regions with severe climate conditions – tests are being developed to qualify materials and modules for these challenging environments. Edge seals have been subjected to moisture barrier performance testing by Mia Sole High-Tech in the USA. Renolit in Belgium has looked at the long term weathering testing of encapsulants, front sheets and backsheets for PV modules. Scientists at the Fraunhofer ISE have developed reliability and functionality tests for anti-soiling coatings in arid regions and Dupont de Nemours International has reviewed the temperature challenges in installed modules. Paul Lippke Handels (Mocon) has barrier testing technology for high temperatures, which can measure permeation at elevated climate conditions. Research at the backsheet producer Coveme has indicated that the wrong weathering test can result in the rejection of good materials and the selection of unsuitable materials.

The global panel of experts meeting at Polymers in Photovoltaics 2015 in February in Dusseldorf will debate the reliability and economics of materials in solar manufacturing and all are welcome to attend and join the discussions.

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