Thin-Film Solar Panels: The Future of Lightweight and Flexible Solar Tech
The idea of installing solar systems is becoming more popular among owners of houses, commercial premises, and other facilities. This trend is quite logical because structures can ensure sustainable development and significantly reduce the impact on the environment. In addition, there are many financial benefits. However, when deciding on an installation, it is worth considering not only the benefit but also the varieties presented by solar companies.
A special place among them is occupied by Thin-Film Solar Panels. This relatively new technology has already won the trust of many buyers. According to Research and Markets, the growth rate of the thin-film solar cell market will grow at a CAGR of 9.1% through 2027. Discover which types of structures these are and how they are divided.
Source: Research Gate
What Is the Principle of Operation of Thin-Film Solar Panels?
The presented varieties are a special type of construction that is significantly different from ordinary solar panels. The main difference is another type of semiconductor material. If standard solar systems are made of crystalline silicon, organic polymers CIGS (indium-gallium selenide), CdTe (cadmium telluride), and a-Si (amphoric silicon) are used to create photovoltaic cells.
These are special compounds that have a higher level of flexibility and can generate certain amounts of solar electricity. The level of productivity of these materials reaches 18%. Another feature is the presence of a protective layer and a conductive sheet in thin film solar panels. In contrast with existing technologies, such solar systems were designed to be simpler, more flexible, and cheaper.
Currently, work on the improvement of thin-film structures is still ongoing. However, if you search for “solar companies near me”, you can be sure that there are already many developments on sale that are available for widespread use. They differ from standard solar batteries not only in structural features but also in appearance. Monocrystalline layers usually have a thickness of several tenths of a millimeter. The base of thin film solar panels is even thinner – it is even smaller than human hair.
This feature makes them extremely light and flexible, which opens up wider possibilities for installation. Thin-film solar panels can be placed even in places where it is impossible to install bulky and relatively heavy monocrystalline or polycrystalline blocks. Another important advantage is the low-temperature coefficient. This characteristic ensures the preservation of a high level of performance of Thin-Film Solar Panels even in conditions of a significant increase in air temperature. In such conditions, the efficiency of conventional solar panels may decrease.
What Are the Types of Thin Film Solar Panels?
Even though the technology appeared not so long ago, developers have already been able to present several varieties. Let’s consider the most famous of them.
Opv Systems (Organic Photovoltaic Solar Panels)
This type of thin-film solar system is made of organic material. These can be small molecules or conducting polymers. Thanks to these components the production of solar electricity is ensured. Multiple layers of organic elements are used in this technology. To stimulate the production of electricity, they are placed between two electrodes.
The value of the OPV flexible solar panel is that it is manufactured using a technology the cost of which is significantly lower. This allows you to set a cheaper price for finished structures. Another feature of organic thin film systems is the presence of different colors. A multi-colored range is provided for use in the manufacturing process of various absorbers.
Thanks to this, you can choose the best color solution for each case. That is, buyers get wider opportunities for the implementation of various types of design projects. However, organic thin-film solar systems have one drawback – relatively low efficiency. The rate of modern designs reaches 11%. This is an obstacle to using them for large-scale projects.
Cigs Technology (Copper-Indium-Gallium Solar Panels)
This is another well-known type of thin-film structure, which is also presented on the market. The type of material used in the base of solar panels can be understood from the name. The structures are created from layers of several materials: diselenide, gallium, indium, and copper. To create the desired effect, they are superimposed on each other.
In this way, manufacturers manage to create a powerful semiconductor. CIGS solar cells also have a very small thickness and can be placed on top of steel, plastic, glass, and aluminum objects. This significantly expands the scope of their use and provides the possibility of installation in different places. As for the level of efficiency, there are already laboratory cases that confirm the achievement of a level of productivity at the level of 20%.
This is almost the same level as standard solar panels. Among the disadvantages of CIGS thin-film structures, it is possible to single out the use of cadmium, a toxic chemical substance, in the manufacturing process. However, some progressive manufacturers were able to replace this element with safer zinc oxides. Another disadvantage is the high cost of production, which does not allow setting a more affordable price on the structure.
CdTe Solar Panels (Thin Film Models Based on Cadmium Telluride)
Solar panels manufactured using this technology are the most affordable type of thin-film varieties. Cadmium telluride is used as the basis of construction. This chemical compound captures solar radiation well and converts this energy into electricity. An important feature of the presented models is their price. Thin film CdTe solar panels are cheaper than standard cells.
In addition, they have the shortest payback period among all known thin-film structures. Another important advantage of CdTe technology is that they have the lowest percentage of carbon footprint. However, photovoltaic cells made of cadmium telluride have several disadvantages.
One of them is the presence of a large amount of cadmium in the composition. This element is toxic, so you need to follow certain precautions and, if necessary, take certain safety measures during the operation. It is especially relevant at the time of disposing of no longer-in-use systems.
Thin-Film Amphora Solar Cells
The category of thin-film solar panels also includes a-Si designs, which are made of amphoric silicon. This is the most researched and developed technology among all varieties in this group. Its essence is that a thin layer of silicon is applied to a metal, plastic, or glass base. For this, the method of chemical vapor deposition is used.
Certain advantages and disadvantages apply to it as well as to other varieties. Excellent low-light performance, excellent light absorption, and flexibility are some of its advantages. Thin-film amphora panels can be easily bent, which makes them more resistant to mechanical damage.
As for the disadvantages, the main one is the rapid loss of efficiency. Currently, the level of productivity of the presented varieties reaches 6-8%. This feature makes them unsuitable for providing the power required to power the devices of an average home. That is why this technology is usually used for small gadgets and devices, including camping equipment.
In the solar industry, thin-film solar panels represent a new generation of technologies. The development of such elements proved that the cost of structures can be lower, and the elements themselves can be made flexible. These features make the technology more accessible to a larger number of buyers and allow you to obtain solar electricity where standard solar panels cannot provide it.