Solar panels are one of the most popular and rapidly growing sources of renewable energy today. As more and more people turn to solar power to meet their energy needs, many are curious about these high-tech panels. People have questions like what are solar panels made out of, and how the solar panels are made. In this blog post, we’ll explore exactly what materials go into the production of each solar panel, as well as discuss key manufacturing processes used in production. Read on to learn more!
What are Solar Panels Made Out of?
A solar panel consists of several components that work together to generate electricity from sunlight. Some of the key components of a solar panel system include solar cells, backsheet, the frame and mounting structure, a junction box, and wiring. Each of these parts is made of different materials and present different function in the whole system.
Solar cells are the most important units that make up a solar panel, and they are typically made of silicon. When sunlight hits the solar cells, the electrons in the silicon are activated, starting to move and creating a flow of electrical current.
There are different types of solar cells with the most common types being monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and thin-film, and each type varies in manufacturing, efficiency, durability, and cost. Monocrystalline cells are made from single crystals of silicon and have the highest efficiency rating out of all solar cell types. Polycrystalline cells are made from multiple crystals of silicon, making them slightly less efficient than monocrystalline cells. Thin-film solar cells use amorphous silicon and a variety of other materials to create less efficient but more cost-effective models.
Frame and Mounting Structure
The frame and mounting structure of solar panels are typically made of aluminum or steel to ensure a rigid structure that provides support and protection for the solar panels. The aluminum and steel frame also helps to prevent the solar panel from flexing or bending, which can damage the solar cells inside.
The backsheet serves as a protective thin layer on the back of the solar panel that keeps out moisture and dust, heat, and UV radiation. Traditionally, backsheets were made of a polymer material such as polyvinyl fluoride (PVF) or ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA). These materials are durable, and flexible, and provide excellent protection against moisture and other environmental factors. However, they can also be expensive and difficult to recycle. More recently, people are exploring more recyclable materials for use in backsheets including aluminum foil, glass, and even biodegradable polymers.
Mounted on the back of the solar panels, Junction Box is the place where the wires from the solar cells are connected to the wires that lead to the inverter. The junction box is typically made of plastic or aluminum, and it is designed to be durable and weather-resistant to protect the electrical components inside. It is also usually sealed with adhesive to prevent moisture from entering the box and damaging the components.
How are Solar Panels Made?
The solar panel will go through the following steps of manufacturing before it is ready to be installed on your roof:
- Collection of Raw Materials: Most solar panels are made of silicon, which is the main component of natural beach sand. So the first step is to collect raw materials that contain silicon.
- Production of Silicon Crystals: The raw materials collected is then melted at very high temperatures with a cylindrical furnace to aquire the solicon ingots with the desired shape.
- Manufacture of Wafers: Then the silicon ingot is cut precisely into thin solicon wafers of a few millimeters thick. The silicon wafers need to be doped with phosphorus or boron to create a positive and negative layer on the wafer, which allows the absorption of sunlight and the generation of electricity. What's more, since solar panels are required to absorb more sunlight, the silicon wafer is coated with anti-reflective materials to reduce the amount of light reflected.
- Cell Fabrication: With the desired quality and number of silicon wafers, the next step is to connect the units to each other with thin strings of conductive metal in order to allow the electrical current to flow.
- Encapsulation: The cells are then encapsulated in a protective material and placed between a front sheet of glass and a backsheet. This protects the cells from weather and mechanical damage.
- Frame Assembly: The encapsulated cells are then assembled into a frame made of aluminum or steel, providing support and rigidity.
- Quality Control: The finished solar panels then undergo a series of quality control tests to ensure they meet industry standards and specifications.
It's important to note that the exact steps and materials used in solar panel production may vary depending on the manufacturer and the type of solar panel being produced.
For example, monocrystalline cells are manufactured from a single crystal of silicon, while polycrystalline cells are made with several silicon crystals together.
While most solar panels are currently manufactured in Asia countries, there are also a number of manufacturers located in other parts of the world, including the United States and Europe. As the demand for solar energy continues to grow, it's likely that we'll see even more investment in solar panel manufacturing and research into new and more efficient materials for solar panels. By harnessing the power of the sun, we can work towards a cleaner and more sustainable future for all.