Ever Wondered How are Solar Panels Made?
What is a solar panel and how is it made? A solar panel detains the sun’s energy using photovoltaic cells and converts this energy into electricity. You may then wonder how are cells made, the photovoltaic type which makes up a solar panel. The production of solar panels or solar cells is a complicated process, and only in recent years has technology advances brought the price down and efficiency up. The process of making solar panels has four distinct steps.
- Crystal Growing
- Solar Cell Production
So, in short, how are solar panels made? Solar panels are made from Silicon, which is melted down and then formed into the wafers that are cut into the solar cells which are assembled into the final panels. The delicate nature of growing the crystals and slicing the wafers is the main source of the complexity in producing solar panels.
How are Solar Panels Made?
To begin the process of producing a solar panel one must first have the material to make it out of. The silicon heated to around 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit and is melted down into a white hot liquid form, which is then formed around a “seed crystal” into a large, formed crystal which is then ready to be sliced into wafers which will then be used to make solar cells!
The next step in making these panels is referred to as “wafering.” Once the silicon crystal has been grown it must be cut into the right size and shape for use in the solar cells that make up the panel. First, the top and bottom of the crystal are lopped off to achieve a uniform width down the length of the grown crystal. Then the crystal is divided into smaller sections of approximately 2 feet, in order to be arranged in rows for the next step. After this division and arrangement into rows, the smaller crystals are then squared, leaving rounded corners. Finally, the newly squared crystal sections are sliced into the form referred to as wafers, hence the term “wafering” which describes the process. However, at this point these wafers completely useless for electricity production, but they are the essential basis for the actual solar cells.
Solar Cell Production
As if the growing and slicing process were not complex enough, once the wafers are cut it is time to prepare them for actual production of energy. At this point, the wafers have limited light-absorption ability. To remedy this issue, a “texture etch” strips off a miniscule layer of the silicon, revealing a somewhat random pattern of pyramids. This pattern increases the light absorption properties of the wafer. The wafer is then infused to give it a negative potential electrical orientation, which creates a junction between the negative surface layer and a middle layer which has a positive electrical potential. Finally, the wafers are processed to give them the dark blue color associated with solar panels.
Solar Panel Assembly
After all the other sections of ‘How are solar panels made?’, it is now time to assemble the solar cells into the final form most would recognize, this being the solar panel itself. The solar cells are aligned, soldered together and set in a frame, both to protect and to enable attachment to the rest of a solar system.
The process of how these solar panels are made is fascinating and may give an understanding of why they seem so exorbitantly expensive. The improvements in efficiency continue as production processes are refined, and the price will only continue to drop.