There has been research work going on to increase the efficiency of the cost-effective amorphous solar panels. TU Delft has been the center where this research work is being developed. The research will directly help in increasing the efficiency of amorphous solar cells – from a 7% to a 9%. Crystalline silicon is most commonly used in silicon solar cells which increases the production cost quite significantly. There is a more economical type of solar panels using amorphous silicon using rather thin films of silicon. The production cost is comparatively less with these panels.
The disadvantage of amorphous solar cells is that they do not have as high a yield as the cells that use crystalline silicon. Compared to the yield of about 18% from the crystalline silicon, the amorphous silicon cells have been yielding only about 7% until now.
The reason for the comparatively low yield of amorphous silicon panels is because they are suffering from Staebler-Wronski effect which reduces the yield from 10% to 7% in the very first hours of sun exposure. Not much has been known about why this effect occurs and that too why with the amorphous silicon solar panels.
Research on amorphous silicon solar cells:
Gijs van Elzakker has been doing research on amorphous solar cells and presented his research paper for his Ph D on this subject on July 6, 2010. He focussed on how to make the amorphous cells give a higher yield. He realized overcoming the Staebler-Wronski effect will go a long way in improving the performance of amorphous solar panels.
Mitigating the Staebler-Wronski effect:
The thin silicon film layers in the amorphous solar panels are made of silane gas (SiH4). Van Elzakker found out that Staebler-Wronski effect can be alleviated by diluting the silane gas with hydrogen at an optimum ratio. In Van Elzakker’s words, “We showed that the influence of the Staebler-Wronski effect can be considerably reduced in this way.
Applying findings in production:
Inventux Technologies, a German Company, has already started utilizing Gijs van Elzakker’s findings in production. Thanks to this principle, a yield of 9% is expected from deploying the amorphous silicon solar panels the way Van Elzakker visualized.