p-type and n-type introduction
The p-type solar cell is the solar cell structure that’s common knowledge in the solar industry. It’s the largest size in the market. The term p-type refers the cell built on a positively charged (hence p-type) silicon base. The wafer contains boron with one electron less than silicium. The top of the wafer is negatively doped (n-type) with phosphorous. It has one electron more than silicium. It forms the p-n junction allows the flow of electricity in the cell. n-type solar cells are created with the reverse process of p-type with n-type doped side serving as the foundation of a solar cell. Progressively, the p-type took the lead since historically solar technology was normally used for space applications. From there, the industry created and structured its perks of economies of scale.
p-type and n-type differences
The distinction between p-type and n-type still take different routes along the value chain to compete on efficiency, cost and differentiating value propositions. While p-type mono and multi PERC are being developed, n-type wafers capacity is also rising.
Efficiency. The most powerful solar cells are n-type solar cells because their superior efficiency is the higher carrier lifetime. The cells aren’t susceptible to the boron-oxygen defect. When ingots are grown, they have high concentration of dissolved oxygen coming from the quartz of the crucible where silicon was melted. For boron doped silicon, oxygen forms a recombination area, known as boron-oxygen defect that damages efficiency. When using n-type solar cells, doped with phosphorous, this effect disappears. Lastly, n-type solar cells are less prone to metallic impurities of the silicon. n-type solar cells are immune to LID, because of the absence of the boron-oxygen defect.
Price. The process to manufacture ingots doesn’t contrast between p-type and n-type solar cells. The scale effect is in favor of p-type solar cells. The process of fabrication adds more steps making it more expensive to build with n-type solar cells.
The differences between p-type and n-type aren’t fundamental in behavior for module buyers. First, because solar technology, follows an evolution in S-curve. The rationale of the solar industry is to continuously improve its technology. The PERC technology adoption is a good example. Second, module buyers will choose between product features they value (ie; efficiency, costs, yields, quality, LID resistance, brand).
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