Learn what thin-film solar cell is and when they are used



When talking about solar technology, most people think of one type of solar panel, crystalline silicon (c-Si) technology. While this is the most popular technology, there is another promising option: thin film solar cell technology.


Thin film solar cell is widely used in photovoltaic agricultural greenhouses and photovoltaic facilities that require light transmission. Do you know what the merits and demerits of thin film solar cell is? How long does this thin film solar panel last? This article will introduce all the basic information on thin film solar cell.

1. Introdution of thin film solar cell technology

Thin film solar technology has been around for more than 40 years and has proven itself by providing many versatile and unique applications that usual solar battery cannot achieve. Thin film solar cell (TFSC) is manufactured using single or multilayer PV elements on surfaces composed of various glass, plastic, or metal.

Thin film solar panels require less semiconductor material in the manufacturing process than conventional crystalline silicon modules, however, they work very similarly under the photovoltaic effect. This effect causes electrons in the thin film PV module semiconductors to move from their positions, generating an electric current that can be harnessed into electricity by external circuits.

Introdution of thin-film solar cell technology


Thin film solar panels are made using strong light absorbing materials and are suitable for solar power generation. The most commonly used thin film solar technologies are cadmium telluride (CdTe), copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS), amorphous silicon (a-Si) and gallium arsenide (GaAs). Efficiency, weight, and other aspects may vary depending on the material, but the generation process is the same.

2. Know the advantages of thin film solar cell

● Convenient production

Plus high technical content. Raw materials are common, saving materials, mass production, low cost.

● Cost-effective

From the price point of view, there are only cost a few per square meter now, and the price will be reduced in the future.

● High photoelectric conversion efficiency

From the perspective of photoelectric conversion efficiency, the energy conversion rate of current thin film solar cell can reach 13-16%, which is basically practical and close to crystalline silicon solar cells.

● Good power generation effect 

The power generation capacity of thin film solar panels per square meter is 50-60W/m² hour. If 5-6 square meters are installed, it can generate 300w per hour, work 5 hours a day, and generate a total of 1500w per day, that is, 1.5 kWh of electricity. It can basically meet the normal electricity needs of ordinary households.

Know the advantages of thin-film solar cell


● Long service life

The thin film solar cell currently produced is used for 10-15 years without problems. The price is advantageous, cost-effective, and people may use thin film solar cell in large quantities in the future.

● Available in low-light environment

This is a very important advantage of thin film solar cell, which to some extent makes up for other shortcomings.

● Multiple structures

Light weight, flexible and bendable, plastic shape, easy to combine with many materials, which is another important advantage of thin film solar cell. For example, the film can be attached to different materials such as glass, plastic, ceramics, graphite, and metal sheets, and the resulting solar cells will be widely used in many places.

3. What are the disadvantages of thin film solar cell

● Easy deliquescence

The growth mechanism of thin film materials determines the ease of thin film solar cells to deliquescence. Therefore, the fluorine-containing material of the encapsulated thin film solar cell is required to be about 9 times stronger than the material of the crystalline silicon cell during encapsulation.

● Photoattenuation

The attenuation of thin film solar cell is about 30%.

● Low conversion efficiency

Due to the low conversion efficiency of membrane solar cells, most of them only appear in small-scale, flexible electronic products.

● Toxic production material 

Cadmium is a highly toxic substance that can accumulate in the food chain like mercury, which is contrary to the concept of environmental friendliness, safety and non-toxicity. Many institutions and laboratories are looking for environmentally friendly, convertible alternatives, and the top 10 photovoltaic battery companies in the world are exploring ways to recover and recycle cadmium-containing materials to solve environmental problems.

What are the disadvantages of thin-film solar cell


Crystalline silicon solar cells have been researched and used for many years, and have gained a lot of experience, and their performance is relatively stable. Thin film solar cell is just getting started, and they need to accumulate experience and mature further. The conversion efficiency of crystalline silicon solar cells is currently slightly higher than that of thin film solar cell.

It is still looking for new materials that are cheaper, more convenient to make, and have higher photoelectric conversion efficiency. The service life of crystalline silicon solar cells is as long as 25 years, and the photoelectric conversion efficiency of thin film solar cell will decline with the use of time.

Ways to resist recession and extend service life are still being studied. Because thin film solar cell has some disadvantages, thin film solar cells can be widely used in small power markets, but they will not be competitive in large power markets.

4. Practical applications of thin film solar cell

  • Thin film solar cell can be combined with glass to make translucent or opaque products.
  • It can be installed on top of agricultural greenhouses, regulating the temperature and humidity in greenhouses, and also bringing additional power generation income.
  • It can also be made into an open greenhouse, with thin film solar power on the top and normal planting under the top.
  • Can be installed on top of the carport as a photovoltaic carport. It can be installed on top of street lights to power them.
  • It can be installed in the glass curtain wall of the building, which can not only meet the lighting demand, but also photovoltaic power generation.

Now, thin film solar shingles (actually solar glass is made into tiles, which are glazed tiles that can generate electricity). Compared with traditional roof tiles, thin film solar tiles have the characteristics of heat insulation, heat preservation, fire prevention, water seepage resistance, and hail resistance. Moreover, industrial production, product installation accuracy has been improved. Such "tiles" not only meet the normal building requirements, but also are very beautiful, and can meet the needs of household electricity.

Practical applications of thin-film solar cell


● Home solar energy use

The use of solar power generation and home energy storage can be made into floor heating equipment, which can heat water to 30-40 degrees with high efficiency to meet the temperature required for heating, and the family house has a constant temperature throughout the four seasons.

It is estimated that for every 25 watts of thin film solar products installed, the emission reduction effect is equivalent to a tree on the earth. It can be expected that thin film solar products will be increasingly used in construction in the future. The service life of thin film solar panels is generally 20 years or more.

Qualified solar panels can withstand 2500 hours of destructive experiments without degradation, and their actual service life can reach 20 years. According to this assessment, the service life of solar panels with the new thin film can be well over 20 years.

5. Conclusion

While thin film solar cell currently account for only a small portion of the global market share, advances in efficiency and new materials are likely to increase their adoption in the future. The development of thin film solar cell with high conversion rates comparable to crystalline silicon cells makes them an attractive option for sustainable energy solutions, especially in the field of residential photovoltaics.


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