Different types of solar cells

Adrienne SorensenAugust 10, 20187290

Different types of solar cells

Thin-Film Solar Cells (TFSC)

Depositing one or several thin layers of photovoltaic material to a  substrate is how thin-film solar cells are manufactured. They’re called thin-film photovoltaic cells (TFPV). The types of thin-film solar cells are categorized by which photovoltaic material is deposited onto the substrate: Amorphous silicon (a-Si), Cadmium telluride (CdTe), Copper indium gallium selenide (CIS/CIGS), and Organic photovoltaic cells (OPC). Thin-film module prototypes have efficiencies between 7–13% and production modules operate at about 9%. Future module efficiencies are expected to increase to approximately 10–16%.


     - Mass-production is simple and economical to manufacture than crystalline-based solar cells.

     - Their homogenous shape appears more attractive.

     - Flexible

     - High temperatures and shading have less impact on solar panel performance


     -  Not the most practical for most residential purposes.

     - Low space-efficiency means the costs of PV-equipment increases.

     - Thin-film solar panels degrade quicker than mono- and polycrystalline solar panels. Thus, it generally has a shorter warranty.

Amorphous Silicon (a-Si) Solar Cells

Solar cells made of amorphous silicon have traditionally  been used for small applications such as pocket calculators. The latest innovations have made them for large-scale applications as well. With a manufacturing technique “stacking”, layers of amorphous silicon solar cells are combined that results in higher efficiency rates (typically around 6-8%). Only 1% of the silicon used in crystalline silicon solar cells is needed in amorphous silicon solar cells.

Cadmium Telluride (CdTe) Solar Cells

Cadmium telluride is the only thin-film solar panel technology that has overcame the cost-efficiency of crystalline silicon solar panels in the market. The efficiency of panels based on cadmium telluride operates in the range 9-11%.

Copper Indium Gallium Selenide (CIS/CIGS) Solar Cells

CIGS solar cells display the most potential of efficiency and are flexible. They have less amounts of toxic material cadmium thats in CdTe solar cells. The efficiency rates are about 10-12 %.

String Ribbon Solar Cells

String Ribbon solar panels are made from polycrystalline silicon. Temperature-resistant wires are pulled through molten silicon, which results in very thin silicon ribbons. Solar panels made this appear similar to traditional polycrystalline panels.


     -  The manufacturing of only uses half the amount silicon as monocrystalline manufacturing which results in lower costs.


      -  More energy extensive and more costly.

      -  Efficiency is at best on par with the low-end polycrystalline solar panels at around 13-14%.

      - Have lowest space-efficiency of any of the main types of crystalline-based solar panels.

Polycrystalline Silicon Solar Cells

The first solar panels consisted of polycrystalline silicon, known as polysilicon (p-Si) and multi-crystalline silicon (mc-Si). Raw silicon is melted and poured into a square mold. It’s then  cooled and cut into square wafers.


     -  The process is simpler and cost less.

     -   Have ower heat tolerance than monocrystalline solar panels. Heat impacts the performance of solar panels and shorten lifespans.


     - The efficiency is generally 13-16% due to lower silicon purity.

     - Lower space-efficiency.

     - More aesthetically pleasing since they have a more uniform look.

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