Thin-Film Photovoltaics Technology

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You've seen the headlines: "Global Energy Demand Expected to Soar by 2030." "Escalating Oil Prices Threaten Economic Recovery." According to the US Department of Energy, the demand for energy in the United States alone will swell by 32% by the year 2020, and the Energy Information Administration projects a 44% increase in world oil consumption by 2030. Solar power -- the clean, renewable energy source of the future -- is becoming more and more crucial to our economic and environmental welfare.

There are actually two major technology groups working on solar energy: silicon crystalline technology, and thin film technology. Since the 1980s, stunning breakthroughs in thin-film photovoltaic technology have made clean, light-generated electricity more feasible and economical. Many people believe that thin-film technologies might ultimately be the most cost-effective method to bring solar energy to the world on a large scale. As many companies rapidly introduce new technologies to harness solar power, tracking developments -- let alone understanding them -- can be daunting. Semitracks' one-day Thin Film Photovoltaics Technology course analyzes and distills the most important aspects of this complex technology.

What Will I Learn By Taking This Class?

The course covers thin-film photovoltaics technology and fabrication processes through seven major topic areas:

  1. The Need for Solar Energy. Participants learn about the economics, advantages, and limitations of photovoltaics.
  2. Design Consideration. Participants will learn how photovoltaic systems are developed and implemented, and how thin-film technologies might provide an economical solution.
  3. Thin Film Device Properties. Participants learn about homo and heterojunctions. They will also learn about quantum efficiencies and develop an equivalent circuit for a solar cell. This will help explain the efficiency and losses that occur.
  4. PV Characteristics. Participants learn about scaling PV systems. They will also learn about the challenges associated with power delivery and energy storage.
  5. Thin-Film Cell Technologies. Participants will learn about the major thin-film technology groups, including: amorphous silicon, cadmium indium gallium selenide (CIGS), cadmium telluride, and other more exotic materials.
  6. Cell Fabrication. Participants learn how solar cells are manufactured. The instructor discusses both baseline manufacturing and advanced manufacturing processes.
  7. Reliability. Participants will learn about the various degradation and failure mechanisms associated with thin film technologies, as well as packaging-related problems.

The courses are necessary for every manager, engineer, and technician entering the photovoltaic field, whether they are working directly for a photovoltaic manufacturer or system integrator or selling to PV manufacturers.

Course Objectives

  1. The seminar will provide participants with an overview of photovoltaic technologies and manufacturing methods.
  2. The participant will be able to understand the properties of a variety of photovoltaic cells.
  3. The seminar will identify the major issues associated with cell efficiencies.
  4. The seminar will also identify the major tradeoffs associated with each technology and efficiency.
  5. The participant will be able to make informed decisions regarding a particular solar cell technology.
  6. The participant will be able to make informed decisions regarding manufacturing processes for various silicon solar cell technologies.
  7. The participant will be able to understand his/her role in the context of the industry.

Course Outline

  1. Motivations
    1. Climate change
    2. Economics
      1. Increasing costs for conventions energy sources
      2. Declining costs of PV
    3. Applications
      1. Utility scale
      2. Rooftop applications
      3. Worldwide installed base
  2. Introductions
  3. PV Power System Design Considerations
    1. Environment
    2. Size/Energy Storage
  4. Solar Cell Device Physics
    1. Bandgaps, Junctions, and Impurities
    2. P and N type semiconductors
    3. Compound semiconductors
    4. Function of a simple junction
  5. Real World PV Characteristics
    1. Performance
    2. Non-idealities
  6. Competing PV Technologies
    1. c-SI, Poly-SI, etc.
    2. CPV
    3. Organics
    4. Thin film
  7. Thin Film Solar Cell Systems
    1. a-Si
    2. CIGS
    3. CdTe
    4. Exotics
  8. PV Panel Fabrication
    1. Discrete cell panels
      1. Construction overview
      2. Stringing
      3. Layout
      4. Wiring
      5. Final Test
    2. Thin Film Panels
      1. Construction overview
      2. Advantages over discrete
      3. Fabrication techniques
      4. Test
  9. Product Qualification Testing
    1. IEC 62615
    2. UL ratings
  10. Reliability
    1. Metastability effects
    2. TF Lifetimes
    3. Moisture Sensitivity
    4. Generic reliability concerns with PV

Instructional Strategy

Our courses are dynamic. We use a combination of instruction by lecture, problem solving, and question/answer sessions to give you the tools you need to excel in the photovoltaics industry. From the very first moments of the seminar until the last sentence of the training, the driving instructional factor is application. The course notes offer hundreds of pages of reference material that the participants can apply during their daily activities.

Our instructors are internationally recognized experts. Our instructors have years of current and relevant experience in their fields. They're focused on answering your questions and teaching you what you need to know.

Instructor Profile

Ian Aeby, Ph.D.

Ian Aeby is director of Quality and Reliablity at Emcore Solar Power. Ian has an MSEE from the University of California, Santa Barbara, with a concentration in integrated optics and semiconductors. He has worked on photovoltaics systems for a number of years, overseeing the quality and reliability of both silicon and compound semiconductor devices and systems.

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