Friday, September 24, 2010

Crystalline silicon

Basic structure of a silicon based solar cell and its working mechanism.
By far, the most prevalent bulk material for solar cells is crystalline silicon (abbreviated as a group as c-Si), also known as "solar grade silicon". Bulk silicon is separated into multiple categories according to crystallinity and crystal size in the resulting ingot, ribbon, or wafer.
  1. monocrystalline silicon (c-Si): often made using the Czochralski process. Single-crystal wafer cells tend to be expensive, and because they are cut from cylindrical ingots, do not completely cover a square solar cell module without a substantial waste of refined silicon. Hence most c-Si panels have uncovered gaps at the four corners of the cells.
  2. Poly- or multicrystalline silicon (poly-Si or mc-Si): made from cast square ingots — large blocks of molten silicon carefully cooled and solidified. Poly-Si cells are less expensive to produce than single crystal silicon cells, but are less efficient. US DOE data shows that there were a higher number of multicrystalline sales than monocrystalline silicon sales.
  3. Ribbon silicon is a type of multicrystalline silicon: it is formed by drawing flat thin films from molten silicon and results in a multicrystalline structure. These cells have lower efficiencies than poly-Si, but save on production costs due to a great reduction in silicon waste, as this approach does not require sawing from ingots.

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