Thin Film Solar Cells

Producing Solar Cells without as much waste

A solar cell is a device that converts photons, or light (from the sun) into electricity. Most solar cells are made from wafers made of mono- or poly crystalline silicon.

The process to make the silicon is costly and time consuming. And, when the process is finished and the cell is made, the leftover silicon is left unused and wasted.

Well, there is another alternative to using silicon wafers. Another type of solar cell, called a thin film solar cell can be used.

This uses silicon, but only in limited amounts. The film is made by depositing a thin layer of pure silicon onto another substance, such as glass, plastic or even metal foil. The process is called chemical vapor deposition.

They often use a material called amorphous silicon for the semiconductor material because it absorbs light well. According the United States Department of Energy, amorphous silicon absorbs 40 times more efficiently than regular single-crystal silicon does. In fact, a very thin layer, only one micrometer (that's one millionth of a meter) thick of amorphous silicon can absorb 90% of the usable light shining on it. This entire process means less time spent manufacturing, and much lower cost, that is then passed on to the consumers.

The popularity of this type of cell seems to be getting more press because of NASA. They are beginning to use this type of solar cell in their satellites because it cuts down on payload on launch, among other obvious reasons, smaller, less expensive, etc.



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