Amorphous silicon was prepared by Walter Spear and Peter LeComber in Dundee, Scotland, around 1973. They used a glowing discharge in silane (SiH4) gas and the end product had unusually impressive and good electronic properties. Amorphous solar panels are created by depositing thin layers of photovoltaic silicon on a suitable substrate. Well, talking about them why not take a look at amorphous solar panels advantages and disadvantages? Because those being economical raise the question are amorphous solar panels any good.
What are Amorphous Solar Panels?
Usually, solar cells are made from silicon crystals with different techniques. Amorphous silicon solar cells or (a-Si) are the non-crystalline allotropic form of semiconductor silicon. With high absorption capacity, it can be used in solar cells with very little thickness mostly around a factor of 100, smaller than in crystalline silicon. Other than the basic a-Si solar cell, you can also get hydrogen-doped amorphous solar cells.
Chemical structure of amorphous solar panels
It is a tetravalent metalloid with four-fold coordination and is tetrahedrally bonded to neighboring silicon atoms. In amorphous silicon solar cells, this structure is not in continuation and its atoms are randomly arranged. Some of its atoms have dangling bonds, causing anomalous electrical output behavior. By passivating the material with hydrogen, this anomalous electrical output behavior can be reduced. Thus, it generates hydrogenated amorphous silicon.
What are Amorphous Solar Panels Advantages and Disadvantages?
Amorphous silicon solar cells are one of the oldest types of thin-film cells. Due to their affordability and flexibility, they are used in many solar panel systems. Despite this, amorphous silicon solar panels have some pros and cons that need to be considered.
What are Amorphous Solar Panel Advantages?
With a thickness of about 1 micrometer, these solar panels belong to the second-generation category of solar panels. Some amorphous solar panel advantages are-
1. Cheaper Construction and Durable
With only a fraction of silicon used in manufacturing amorphous silicon solar cells, they are considerably cheaper to manufacture. Also, materials like glass, plastic, or stainless steel are used as substrates for these panels. These materials are cheaper and easily available. These panels are more tolerant than crystalline and a damaged portion does not have a large effect on overall power output.
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2. Flexible, Versatile, and Lightweight
With high flexibility, these panels are put to various uses. These panels are also highly versatile as they can also function easily in low-light situations and are less heat-sensitive. Amorphous panels are the lightest panels available in the market. It is easier to wrap them around curve surfaces because of their lightweight and flexible structure. Also, it makes them easily portable with options like foldable solar panels and rollable solar panels.
Also, you can customize the size, voltage, and shape along with current and power with the roll-to-roll process.
Unlike other solar panels, amorphous silicon solar panels are available in round, hexagonal, square, and other complex shapes. They have a high innovative potential and with new and improved technological advancements there is greater scope for their integration into different day-to-day things. A special version of amorphous solar panels is optimized for indoor light sources that can perform better than crystalline panels. And with improved technologies, this feature will improve to great extent. To learn about amorphous solar panels advantages and disadvantages, you also need to thoroughly analyze amorphous solar panels’ disadvantages.
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What are Amorphous Solar Panels Disadvantages?
Their affordability is an exclusive feature but lesser manufacturing costs results in the following drawbacks.
These solar panels have a very short lifespan in comparison to other solar panel types. While monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar panels last for a minimum of 20–25 years, amorphous solar panels last only for 2 to 3 years. Amorphous solar panels are highly affected by light-induced degradation, potential-induced degradation, and age-related degradation resulting in short life spans.
2. Lower efficiency
Amorphous solar panels are the least efficient among the types of solar panels available. The average efficiency of these panels is around 7%, whereas monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels have an efficiency rating of more than 20%. Light-induced degradation is a severe drawback of hydrogen-doped amorphous silicon solar cells.
3. Space requirements
Less efficient panels mean lower power generation by solar panels. This may or may not fulfill the energy requirements of your household. Thus, more panels need to be installed in the solar panel system. For this, you need a large space area.
Are Amorphous Solar Panels Any Good?
In terms of efficiency and lifespan, amorphous solar panels are not reliable and sustainable. Though they are much more economical than monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar panels, this serves as a drawback too. Less efficient solar panels mean low productivity and to meet your energy requirements you need more panels along with more area to install them.
At present, amorphous solar panels are a viable option if you want to carry out a DIY project, or a small-scale solar panel system. But since these panels have limited availability, it will be hard to find them. So, if you are looking for a solar rooftop panel system, please refer to your local solar installer for better and more efficient options. Are amorphous solar panels any good? The answer to this is already pretty clear after learning about amorphous solar panels advantages and disadvantages.
What is Amorphous Solar Panel Efficiency?
Amorphous solar panels are the least efficient and hydrogen-doped panels are highly susceptible to light-induced degradation. The efficiency of these panels is just around 6-7%. Compared to standard solar panels, amorphous panels produce electricity at around a third of the rate. Even if you do further investments in these panels, their theoretical efficiency limit is around 15% which is still less than the average solar panel.
What is Amorphous Solar Panel Lifespan?
The average lifespan of amorphous solar panels ranges from 2 to 3 years. Continuous impact on performance due to light-induced degradation (LID) and low efficiency due to cheaper materials results in fewer operational years for these panels.
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What are Amorphous Solar Panels Used For?
Amorphous silicon solar panels are not just used as solar rooftop panels but are also preferred for a wide range of applications due to their flexibility. Some of the most common and probable applications of amorphous solar panels are or will be to power the following things.
- Off-grid buildings and similar places with low energy needs
- Outdoor lights
- Small and portable gadgets like e-readers and solar phone chargers
- Watches and clothing accessories
- Windows with transparent gradients
Well, today you learned about amorphous solar panels advantages and disadvantages and the reasons behind their drawbacks. What are amorphous solar panels used for? Their application is not just confined to rooftop solar panels and in near future they are likely to be installed in clothes too. It is time to share the information with your friends and family to raise awareness and knowledge about the same.
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