What Are Solar Panels Made of?
Energy is one of the greatest necessities of mankind today. Since most of the world needs electricity, it is potentially problematic to have a source that’s non-renewable. This is why alternative sources of energy and equipment for making this possible have become popular over the last few decades. More and more companies understood what are solar panels made of and developed this material further for use in solar energy.
This is a great leap as the increase of solar providers made these materials more affordable. However, the truth is that solar panels are not that easy to build from scratch as they’re made of silicon-based materials. Once built, though, they can be installed without the need for professional help as long as the individual has a basic understanding of electrical circuitry.
A solar panel (also known as a photovoltaic cell) is the component that makes solar energy absorption possible. These panels can absorb the sun’s light particles or photons and use them to power up an electrical device directly or charge a battery. Since it uses the unlimited sun as an energy source, it is the primary focus of governments now in their goal to move to renewable energy sources as it can be implemented in homes and businesses with ease. This article will look at the anatomy of solar panels and their formation and provide an overall insight about this solar equipment.
How Are Solar Panels Made?
What are solar panels made of and how are they made? Silicon is an element that is classified as a metalloid or semimetal in the periodic table. This makes silicon a conductive material capable of allowing current to flow through it. It is abundant in nature, being the 7th most common element in nature, and is therefore not very costly. This makes it a perfect material for making solar cells. Solar panels that are made of silicon-based crystalline silicon (whether monocrystalline or polycrystalline) undergo a machine process that can be complex.
This means that they cannot be manufactured at home but can be bought from numerous manufacturers. The countries that are leading in the production of solar panels include Germany, China, Japan, Italy, and the United States. The solar modules are composed of 60 or 72-piece cells that are interconnected in a series and parallel circuits in an array. These cells are placed between glass and plastic and are enclosed in a metal frame. Depending on the capacity, one panel can produce between 250-300 watts of power.
The answer to the question how are solar panels made may depend on the type being made. Monocrystalline panels are the more expensive type because of the purity of the material used and the intricacy of the manufacturing process. It starts with a single, large block of silicon that is fashioned into wafers. In this process, they retain the black color that signifies their purity. These silicon wafers are cut into smaller, individual units, a process that can be labor-intensive.
While mono types are cut, polycrystalline types aren’t made by cutting a single block. Silicon crystals will have to be melted at a high temperature so they can be fused together. Once fused, they are then cut into individual pieces. Because they are not made out of a single block, they are not as pure as the latter and may not be as efficient because of the way that their molecules are bonded together.
Thin-film amorphous silicon types are more malleable than the other two because these cells are not crystalline in form and therefore need a substrate to be added to remain stable. They are more often used for travel vehicles (like boats or RVs) because they can be attached to substrates of irregular shapes, which can be convenient if you don’t have a flat surface to place them onto. The final product will, of course, not just be made of the silicon-based materials.
Parts of Solar Panels
What are the solar panels materials needed to create the finished, usable cells for the solar-powered system? If you’re wondering about the anatomy of solar panels, read this section. The system itself is composed of six layers. Therefore, the manufacturing process involves attaching these layers together to be readied for installation on the roof (or the ground). The first layer is the frame, usually made of aluminum metal that makes the entire structure rigid and protected from destruction upon installation.
The second layer is the glass sheet for the casing. This safeguards the top portion of the panel while still allowing sunlight to pass through. The third layer is the 2-later EVA or Ethylene-vinyl acetate, which is the adhesive that binds the components together while keeping the solar cell protected from debris and other remnants that may affect its efficiency.
The fourth layer is the most important of all, the solar cells. As you already know, it is made of silicon and is responsible for absorbing the photons from the sun and converting them to usable electricity. The fifth layer is called a backsheet, and it is made of an electrically-neutral material that prevents water, moisture, and dirt from entering the cells and destroying the circuit.
The final component is the junction box, and it is responsible for transferring the electricity produced by the panels across the array through the cables and connectors that bind them together. It is obviously an elaborate system, and it can last for 1-2 decades because the system is designed to withstand heat and cold and to remain operational regardless of the weather conditions.
Steps of Making Solar Panels
With the six-layer structure, making your own panel seems to be doable enough. It is the making of the solar cell that’s not doable in your garage. Here are the steps in its production.
- Refinement of Raw Materials – Silicon, the main component of solar cells, is purified through a high-temperature heating process to extract crystals that are used for solar cell-making.
- Solar Cell Production – To produce the solar wafer of a polycrystalline cell, the silica sand undergoes a process called carbon arc welding and doped with boron or phosphorus. Monocells, on the other hand, go through the Czochralski process. Both are complex processes that require machines, so you’re better off buying a ready-made cell.
- Solar Panel Production – Once done, you’ll need to encapsulate the cells within the 6-layer system, starting with the frame, glass top sheet, EVA, cell, EVA, backsheet, and then the junction system.
- Testing and Accreditation – The circuitry and efficiency of the machine will have to be tested and measured. Then, it has to be submitted to an accredited agency for approval before it can go on the market.
Solar panels are a great invention that allows us to enjoy energy coming from the sun not just to dry our clothes or allow our plans to grow, but also to power up our electronic devices and keep our lights turned on. Since its main component, silicon, is ever-occurring in nature, this solution is not very expensive, either, which is probably why more and more people are now capable of making the switch.
Aside from the cells, you’ll need a metal casing, glass sheet, backsheet, a glue called EVA, and a junction board, and you can already have this wonderful system installed on your roof. It may be expensive to get the system started or it may be difficult to fashion the system on your own, but it can provide decades worth of electricity, which makes it truly worth it.