Solar panels can turn sunlight into electricity that powers our homes because of photovoltaic (PV) cells. The amount of power we can generally rely on the quality and ability of our solar systems to capture sunlight.
Over the years, manufacturers tested and used various materials to do just that. Let’s talk about these materials more.
Silicon is a first-generation material, meaning one of the first materials used in creating solar panels, specifically as a semiconductor.
It’s quite efficient in capturing sunlight. Also, they’re not very expensive and they last for a long time, around 25 years. That being said, it’s a good investment.
Crystalline silicon, also called solar-grade silicon, is also a first-generation material for creating PV cells. Crystalline silicon cells are conventional cells, assembled from wafer-thin sheets.
There are many types of silicon-based materials used in making PV cells namely monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and epitaxial silicon.
Thins film semiconductors sandwiched between two sheets of glass are second-generation materials. They’re heavier than the silicon-based materials we mentioned above.
Thin films are typically made using any of these three materials:
Copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS) absorbs a high amount of sunlight, which means solar panels with cells made from this material generate plenty of electricity.
However, the manufacturing process can be taxing and complicated because there are four elements involved.
Cadmium telluride has good quality but is less pricey, certainly cheaper than multi crystalline silicon PV cells. Also, it needs less power to function.
There’s a downside though: it has waste products that are hard to dispose of and are toxic.
3. Amorphous silicon
Manufacturers have been using this material for a while now, but it started to pale in comparison with the previous two. Regardless, it still proved useful, especially because of its thinness and lightness. This special quality allows manufacturers to layer them with each sheet absorbing different light frequencies.
When ensuring maximum sunlight absorption, a cell has to capture as many kinds of light frequencies as possible.
Newly-Discovered Photovoltaic Materials
These materials are the third generation and are still being studied and developed for photovoltaic purposes. They’re made of both organic and inorganic substances.
They’re not yet ready for commercial use, especially because they still can’t absorb much sunlight. But they have a high potential to be cheaper yet efficient.