What Makes Up a Solar Panel?
Solar cells are made out of silicon wafers. These are made out of the element silicon, a hard and brittle crystalline solid that is the second most abundant element in the Earth’s crust after oxygen. If you’re at the beach and see shiny black specks in the sand, that’s silicon. It naturally converts sunlight into electricity.
Like other crystals, silicon can be grown. Scientists grow silicon in a tube as a single, uniform crystal, unrolling the tube, and cutting the resulting sheet up into what are known as wafers.
They try to make these wafers as skinny as possible, to get as much value out of their crystal as possible. This type of solar cell is made out of mono-crystalline silicon.
There are also photovoltaic cells which are mass-produced and cut by lasers with greater accuracy. While they’re used in outer space, they’ve found far more purpose and value on Earth. So, instead of putting an emphasis on weight, solar manufacturers now put an emphasis on strength and durability. Goodbye lightweight encapsulate, hello glass that can withstand the weather.
One of the main focuses on any solar manufacturer is efficiency—how much of the sunlight that falls on every square meter of the solar panel can be converted into electricity. It’s “a basic math problem” that lies at the center of all solar production. Efficiency means how much of the sunlight can be properly converted through P and N-type silicon.