Photovoltaics: Arkema's innovative materials
Developing new energy sources is essential to meet the environmental challenges of our century. Among them is the photovoltaic industry. To facilitate production and recycling, Arkema is implementing new, more efficient processes.
Photovoltaic energy is renewable, sustainable and clean, and demand for this source of energy is growing rapidly throughout the world. For about the last ten years, the Arkema group has been developing new solar panel materials, especially polymers.
The aim of this work has been to increase the sturdiness, lifetime and performance of solar panels. Another goal is to make the manufacture of panels quicker and less costly.
Arkema is therefore providing industry with products and solutions to reduce production costs and to save on silicon, while also making it easier to recycle end of life panels.
Arkema's solutions to optimize solar panel efficiency
There have been 5 major innovations:
- Kynar® Film – a stable and resistant film
Kynar® films are used to manufacture extreme performance photovoltaic module backsheet membranes. Thanks to their very good high temperature and humidity performance, their UV resistance as well as the stability of their white color (which contributes to reflecting light toward the silicon), they are key elements in the longevity and increased energy yield of solar panels.
- Evatane® – a transparent and insulating resin
Ethylene/vinyl acetate copolymer (EVA) Evatane® has the ideal characteristics for the encapsulation of silicon cells and the protection of electrical circuits: excellent transparency, high UV resistance, perfect adhesion to glass, good electrical insulation, etc.
- Luperox® Solar – improving processes
This organic peroxides used for the cross-linking of EVA - served as cell encpasulation - speed up the production rates of solar panels, thank's to its short reticulation time.
- Altuglas® HT 121 – better than glass
This polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA) - or acrylic glass - is especially well-suited to photovoltaic applications due to its transparency, thermal resistance, lightness and durability. It is used as a substitute for glass panels and concentrates light on thin strips of silicon, thereby increasing the solar panel efficiency and reducing the required amounts of silicon.
- Apolhya® Solar – encapsulating thin layers
This flexible nanostructured thermoplastic polymer is designed to encapsulate the new generation components of photovoltaic modules, known as "thin layers". It also reduces the production time of panels and makes end of life recycling easier.
Some new materials for next solar panels generations
At present only 15% of the solar energy captured by photovoltaic panels is in fact transformed into electricity. Thanks to new materials, the capture rate could increase to up to 40% in the years to come.
The Arkema group is already working on photovoltaic solutions for the future. Research is being conducted to develop organic photovoltaic cells (Organic Photovoltaics) where semiconductor polymers would replace silicon.