Delaware-based DuPont is working to develop ultra-thin moisture protective films for photovoltaic panels — so thin they’re about 1,000 times thinner than a human hair.
DuPont is working on new photovoltaic technology that will let manufacturers of copper indium gallium selenide, or CIGS, solar cells and organic light emitting diodes, or OLED, displays protect products with thin layers of ceramic and polymer material instead of glass. These ultra-thin protective films could help prevent deterioration from moisture.
Because of their potential to reduce the cost of producing solar energy, “thin-film PV modules are projected to be the fastest-growing segment of the solar module industry,” says Marc Doyle, global business director at DuPont Photovoltaic Solutions.
CIGS are very sensitive to moisture, according to DuPont. While glass serves as a good moisture barrier, DuPont believes the industry needs to explore other materials.
In order to develop this product, DuPont will go through two program phases. The first focuses on the development of a prototype for high-speed production, while the second works to design a pilot-scale facility.
“This three-year program will enable panels to be made with flexible plastic instead of glass that can be bent and wrapped, offering greater versatility and easier integration into the roofing, windows or siding of a commercial or residential building,” Marc says.
With help from Recovery Act funds, DuPont hopes the product will be available for sampling in 2012 and commercialization in 2014.
“Addressing energy security is a monumental challenge that takes collaborations and partnerships — no one sector or organization can do it alone," Marc says.
If the program is successful, flexible CIGS modules could help bring down installation costs and enable faster and more-efficient manufacturing. Also, the lighter materials would reduce the overall weight of the panels, which would cut shipping costs.
In addition, the flexibility of the material could help expand options for installation.
“We are excited about the opportunities that can come from this,” Marc says. “(The project) is helping solar energy become more competitive with other forms of energy generation.”