Impact-Resistant and Tough 3D Helicoidally Architected Polymer Composites Enabling Next-Generation Lightweight Silicon Photovoltaics Module Design and Technology
journal contributionposted on 2021-09-30, 07:00 authored by Arief Suriadi Budiman, Rahul Sahay, Komal Agarwal, Gregoria Illya, Ryo Geoffrey Widjaja, Avinash BajiAvinash Baji, Nagarajan Raghavan
Lightweight photovoltaics (PV) modules are important for certain segments of the renewable energy markets—such as exhibition halls, factories, supermarkets, farms, etc. However, lightweight silicon-based PV modules have their own set of technical challenges or concerns. One of them, which is the subject of this paper, is the lack of impact resistance, especially against hailstorms in deep winter in countries with four seasons. Even if the front sheet can be made sufficiently strong and impact-resistant, the silicon cells inside remain fragile and very prone to impact loading. This leads to cracks that significantly degrade performance (output power) over time. A 3D helicoidally architected fiber-based polymer composite has recently been found to exhibit excellent impact resistance, inspired by the multi-hierarchical internal structures of the mantis shrimp’s dactyl clubs. In previous work, our group demonstrated that via electrospinning-based additive manufacturing methodologies, weak polymer material constituents could be made to exhibit significantly improved toughness and impact properties. In this study, we demonstrate the use of 3D architected fiber-based polymer composites to protect the silicon solar cells by absorbing impact energy. The absorbed energy is equivalent to the energy that would impact the solar cells during hailstorms. We have shown that silicon cells placed under such 3D architected polymer layers break at substantially higher impact load/energy (compared to those placed under standard PV encapsulation polymer material). This could lead to the development of novel PV encapsulant materials for the next generation of lightweight PV modules and technology with excellent impact resistance.